Universities urged to do more to fight HIV/AIDS

Monday, 10 April 2006

A leading academic from the Caribbean has called on universities to do more to help stem the global HIV / AIDS crisis.

Speaking today at the General Conference of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), being held at the University of Adelaide, Professor E. Nigel Harris said university communities in many parts of the world had been slow to react to the HIV / AIDS pandemic.

There often was little systematic dialogue between the education sector and other national partners responding to the disease, and no training programs for education sector managers to create, implement and monitor a programme of response.

This was despite the fact that education had a very important role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS, both directly and indirectly. As well as providing information, it could empower individuals to take life-affirming decisions and remove much of the damaging stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.

"Formal school education and non-formal programs for young people reach into communities and families in ways that no other services do," he said.

Professor Harris, a respected doctor and former member of the National Institute of Health in the US, is Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. He was previously Professor of Medicine, Dean and Senior Vice President of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

He told delegates at the conference of the Commonwealth's most distinguished academics that the Caribbean was the second most HIV-affected region in the world per head of population, with AIDS now the leading cause of death among young adults. Nearly three-quarters of all new infections were found in females aged 15 to 24

In response, the University of the West Indies has put in place a formal HIV/AIDS Response Program (HARP). As part of this program, 23 courses dealing with different aspects of HIV/AIDS have been developed, a further 101 courses are infused with HIV/AIDS components, and 112 academic staff trained to deliver these components of infused courses.

It also has established a Commonwealth Secretariat and UNESCO Chair for HIV/AIDS Education.

Professor Harris reminded delegates that half of the 500 universities that were members of the ACU were in areas severely affected by HIV/AIDS.

He said one of the most important strategic goals was to ensure that the entire university community recognised the gravity of the pandemic and the grave risks it posed, as well as opportunities for the university to combat it both within its own ranks and in the communities it served.

Notes for Editors

More than 250 Vice-Chancellors from around 30 countries are attending the Adelaide conference, which is held under the auspices of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee. It is sponsored by Academic Search International, Deloitte, Oracle and The Times Higher Education Supplement.

The ACU, founded in 1913, is the world's oldest inter-university organisation. Its aim is to strengthen the universities in membership through the promotion of international co-operation and understanding. It works in practical ways to fulfil this aim by promoting the interests of member universities; by providing assistance with staff and student mobility and development programmes; and by researching and disseminating information about universities, management practices and policy issues. Over 500 universities in 35 countries and regions around the Commonwealth are members of the ACU, making it one of the most effective international networks in higher education in the world.

The University of Adelaide, established in 1874, is one of Australia's leading universities. It is associated with five Nobel Laureates (three of whom are graduates), and has produced nearly 100 Rhodes Scholars. Adelaide has a fine tradition of exemplary scholarship and ground-breaking research, and its unique relationship with industry and other organisations ensures that research expertise is translated into tangible benefits for the global community.


Contact Details

Michael Benson
Email: michael.benson@candlestar.co.uk
Communications Director
Association of Commonwealth Universities
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Media Team
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