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Updated 10:00 AM March 27, 2006
 

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  Ethics in Public Life forum April 5
Event to address global health

Educating people about the basic science of HIV/AIDS and malaria, rather than giving shallow information and behavior advice, can empower them to make better choices that will impact transmission and infection, says a faculty member who will participate in an upcoming forum on the global spread of disease.

People in countries affected most by HIV/AIDS are highly receptive to a variety of approaches to prevent disease and illness because they live daily with the reality of HIV/AIDS and malaria, says A. Oveta Fuller, associate professor of microbiology and immunology in the Medical School. She will be one of the featured speakers at the April 5 Ethics in Public Life forum, "What Will It Take to Prevent and Treat Diseases Like HIV/AIDS and Malaria around the Globe?"

"Countries like the United States and many of its people have much in material goods, but the distribution of resources is uneven," Fuller says. "With a few of these resources directed to educational institutions, effective agencies and other useful places in developing countries, more progress could be made in addressing issues of malaria, HIV/AIDS, lack of sanitation, access to healthy water, production of adequate food and reduction of completely preventable infections."

Last year, President Mary Sue Coleman created the Ethics in Public Life Task Force to explore how the University and education, in general, can contribute to a broader discussion of ethics in public life. Among the task force recommendations was the creation of a series of public forums to address ethical issues.

The fourth and final forum for the year, on global health, will be from 7-9 p.m. in the Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union.

"No one disputes the importance of stopping the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria," says John Chamberlin, co-chair of the Ethics in Public Life Initiative, and professor of public policy and of political science, who will moderate the event. "But given the lack of conflict about these goals, and the toll of human suffering associated with these diseases, why aren't we making faster progress? The need for scientific advances? The need for patient education? Cultural barriers? The lack of political will? Money? These are questions we look forward to hearing our panelists discuss."

The April 5 panel includes Fuller, Dr. David Canter, senior vice president of Pfizer Global Research & Development; Sioban Harlow, professor of epidemiology; and Rachel Snow, associate professor of health behavior and health education in the School of Public Health, and research associate professor at the Population Studies Center in the Institute for Social Research.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization, by the end of 2005 an estimated 40.3 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. The year also saw more than 3 million deaths from AIDS, despite recent improvements in access to anti-retroviral treatment.

The Department of Health and Human Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 41 percent of the world population lives in areas where malaria is transmitted—parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, Hispaniola and Oceania—and an estimated 700,000 to 2.7 million persons die of malaria each year.

"In the world of perceived 'haves' and 'have nots,' it is a crime if those who have resources and access to education and healthcare do not use these to increase the well-being and living environments for others as we can," Fuller adds. "It is important to seek to empower people to help themselves."

"If each person could do something to be part of the solutions, the collective effort could begin to reverse the HIV/AIDS pandemic, reduce the impact of preventable diseases, and enhance overall well-being both in the United States and in developing countries."

The forum will be co-sponsored by the U-M-Global Health Research and Training Initiative, with funding from the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center.

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