Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Videoconferences on AIDS connect students across globe

While rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges visited GW and rallies took place at the White House, some students spent part of World AIDS Day participating in a videoconference with peers and experts all over the world.

Two of three videoconferences held worldwide had conference sites located in D.C. – one conference took place in the morning and had a World Bank site, the second conference took place in the afternoon and had a World Bank and an American University site.

The conferences connected Washington-area students and community participants with their peers in Uganda, Ethiopia and Ecuador and at other universities across the country.

“We wanted to connect students to people who are living around the world with the threat of AIDS,” said event organizer Seth Green of Americans for Informed Democracy.

In total, there were 30 videoconference sites around the world on Friday. Other universities with videoconference sites included Yale, University of Indiana, Princeton, Northwestern, University of Michigan and American. About 30 people were in attendance at American University’s videoconference site.

“I came because I want to focus on international service and community development in Africa, which is directly related to AIDS,” said American University site participant Amanda Spielberg, a freshman at AU majoring in International Service. “(The conference) allowed us to have a dialogue with other people in other countries and see what work they’re doing.”

Jason Dombrowski, president of the Foreign Policy Association at American, ran his school’s videoconference site.

“It’s good for people to get outside of D.C. and (expose themselves) to a totally different mindset and problems,” Dombrowski said. “It’s an opportunity to connect to a wider audience.”

Joanna Brucker, a senior at GW majoring in anthropology, attended the morning videoconference at the World Bank site.

“I have a concentration in developmental studies … and am very interested in how you use local knowledge and participatory knowledge,” Brucker said. “The conference was listed as student-initiated, having students around the world discussing AIDS, and I really feel that the universal approach to how cultures treat problems is very important.”

During the afternoon videoconference, both World Bank and American University site participants commented and posed questions to the other sites around the world, as well as to a panel of AIDS experts at the World Bank.

“We’re the first generation in human history who could contemplate tackling this issue,” said panelist Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance.

Elizabeth Lule, manager of the AIDS Campaign Team for Africa at the World Bank gave a short presentation for videoconference participants about the state of AIDS today, focusing on the stigma associated with people who have AIDS.

“We do have a big job to do in the area of stigma,” said Lule. “Anything that looks different, looks sick … we try to shove away.”

Lule added that “I always get energized seeing you young leaders. You are the ones who will change the world.”

Though students made up the majority of the participants at the afternoon videoconference’s American University site, some non-student community members participated as well.

One such participant, Chuck Hassenplug, worked for the United Nations and recently moved to D.C. He said the videoconference’s format was very exciting.

“You know that other people are working on (the videoconference),” Hassenplug said. “You can feel more than just through words, you see the other people working on the same thing.”

John B. K. Rutayuga is president and executive director of Ukimwi Orphans Assistance in D.C. and gave videoconference participants an African’s point of view on AIDS.

“We Africans now think of a generation free of AIDS,” said Rutayuga. “We would like to (encourage) young people to be responsible to (each other), and to be responsible to (their) community and family.

This was the second year of the videoconference, which Green said will be held every year to connect young social activists across the globe.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet