About 250 people attended AIDS Science Day at the School of Public Health on April 12 for discussions of a wide range of medical, preventive, social and political aspects of the disease. “In simple terms,” said public health Dean Michael Merson, “the pandemic now rivals in size and dimension the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages.” Three panels discussed sex, drugs and politics; therapeutic and preventive interventions; and risk factors among vulnerable populations. The 18 posters on display examined topics including the Tijuana sex industry, syringe access in Hartford and links between substance abuse and domestic violence.

Among the presenters was Shalini Kapoor, M.P.H. ’02, who received the student poster award for her research into the impact of AIDS on households in South Africa. (She also received the Dean’s Prize for Outstanding M.P.H. Thesis.) Kapoor found many of them overwhelmed by the loss of productive family members and an increase in the number of orphans. Many households in the KwaZulu Natal province, she said, were unaware of government assistance programs. She also observed obstacles to obtaining that assistance, missing birth certificates being high on the list. “Most children are in need of food, clothing, shoes, school uniforms, blankets and mattresses,” said Kapoor, who spent last summer in South Africa. “The information in this assessment is intended to assist in designing programs targeted to the needs of young orphans and their families.”