AIDS Tanzania, a student-founded and student-run service organization at the College of William & Mary, has been promoting AIDS awareness and testing for two years in Africa. On Nov. 19, members of the organization will be bringing their message to the Williamsburg community by hosting a screening of a documentary and answering questions about AIDS and community service at the Williamsburg Library Theatre beginning at 7:30 p.m.
In Tanzania this year, the organization, in partnership with The United African Alliance Community Center in Arusha, Tanzania, tested 238 individuals for HIV over three days, held round-table discussions with women from the local community and discussed condom use with young men. As part of AIDS Tanzania's movement toward civic sustainability, they spent several days in peer-training exercises with Tanzanians who will teach about AIDS once AIDS Tanzanian volunteers are back in Williamsburg.
Devin Oller ('09), president of AIDS Tanzania, and Meghan Dunne, a longtime member, recently discussed their efforts in a videotaped interview conducted by the Office of University Relations.
Dunne, the recipient of the 2008 President's Award for Service at the College, said, "By talking about AIDS and talking about safe-sex and talking about condom use, that's constantly fighting a stigma and constantly talking about something that people have been taught they really shouldn't be talking about." She said that in Tanzania, just as in Williamsburg, it is easier for individuals not to get tested, thereby avoiding any responsibility that a positive result might entail.
Oller views AIDS Tanzania as operating within a global context. "The connection is HIV AIDS," he said. "The connection is that people aren't getting enough education about HIV AIDS in our country, and people aren't getting enough education in Tanzania, as well." As far as the relationship established between William & Mary students and their counterparts in Tanzania, Oller said, "I view that we're peers in that we see the community as a global community, and we see the future as a global future and a shared future."
Although AIDS Tanzania members relish the organization's status as a student-led group, Drew Stelljes, director of the College's Office of Community Engaement and Scholarship (OCES), called AIDS Tanzania leaders valuable members of the university's service-minded community. "They are among the most active on campus," he said. "Their involvement as members of the International Service Experience Council has been invaluable."
Holley Nichols, a graduate assistant working with OSVS, said, "AIDS Tanzania not only does important education outreach and HIV testing in Imbeseni, Tanzania, but they really have been a model for other service trip organizations on campus. The leadership structure for the team focuses on keeping the organization strong long after the current team members graduate."