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Treating AIDS in South Africa: tales of hope and despair from medical professionals


ANN ARBOR, MI – According to a 2007 fact sheet published by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, there were an estimated 5.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa in 2006 – the second highest number of any country in the world, and highest on the African continent. Nearly 40 percent don’t know they are infected.

Against this backdrop, Ronald Bayer, Ph.D., and Gerald Oppenheimer, Ph.D., MPH, compiled an oral history of how South Africa’s doctors and nurses struggle to provide care in an environment of scant resources, and professional and political barriers. Their book, Shattered Dreams? An oral history of the South African AIDS epidemic (Oxford University Press, 2007), recounts conversations with medical professionals in cities, towns and rural areas. Their stories of indifference, opposition, unexpected resistance and material scarcity place the AIDS epidemic in South Africa on an unimaginable scale of human suffering.

Bayer and Oppenheimer will discuss their book at the seventh annual Davenport Lecture. It is free and open to the public, and takes place in the Great Lakes Room of Palmer Commons, 100 Washtenaw Avenue, Tuesday, October 23, 2007, from 3 – 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 734-647-6914.

Bayer is a professor and co-director at the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Oppenheimer is a professor at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He also is an associate professor of clinical public health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

The Davenport lectureship is named for the late Horace W. Davenport, Ph.D., who died in August 2005 at age 92. He was chair of the U-M Department of Physiology for 22 years, from 1956 to 1978. Davenport was one of the world’s preeminent gastric physiologists. His landmark studies led to the discovery of the stomach’s barrier to injury. After retiring from active faculty status in 1983, Davenport pursued his longtime interest in the history of physiology and medicine, publishing numerous books and articles including Not Just Any MedicalSchool: The Science, Practice, and Teaching of Medicine at the University of Michigan, 1850-1941 (University of Michigan Press, 1999).

The annual Davenport Lecture is sponsored by the U-M Center for the History of Medicine. This year’s co-sponsors are the Office of the President, Office of the Provost, the Science, Technology and Society Program and the Medical School Office of the Dean.

Written by Mary Beth Rielly


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