AIDS research pioneer Dr. David Ho spent last Tuesday on campus spreading the word about the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic.
“I want to stress to the students here that this is a problem of great proportions and I would consider it a crisis every single day,” Ho said. “I consider this the worst human plague ever. Therefore, logically for me every citizen should know something about this, every educated person should know something about this, and every university student should know something about this.”
In addition to his keynote address to the Quinnipiac community, he met individually with small groups of students majoring in biology, health science and sociology. Ho and the students discussed the AIDS “crisis” from three different angles.
“I’m so in awe I got to meet him,” senior nursing major Kristin Laskey said.
Laskey works on the infectious disease unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital and has helped numerous AIDS and HIV patients.
“The extreme prevalence of AIDS not only in our country but in the world is something that Dr. Ho did a really good job of explaining,” Laskey said. “It’s completely overlooked by all the presidential campaigns and in general. It needs a lot more publicity and attention and funds.”
Laskey said that it is important not to isolate or be afraid of AIDS patients.
“A lot of people have a fear of people who have AIDS,” Laskey said. “They think they can just get it if they have close contact. But it’s important not to fear people who have it. As prevalent as it is, you’re not going to get it from everyday contact.”
Ho said he enjoyed meeting students who are studying his work in their classes.
“It was wonderful, it was lively, the questions were insightful,” Ho said about his discussions with the students. “It’s clear the students were prepared and it’s gratifying for me.”
Ho was named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine in 1996 after he created a prescription drug which helped many HIV-positive patients recover from the disease. He is continuing to work on creating new treatments.
“We’re still trying to make a vaccine,” Ho said. “We’re still trying to devise scientific strategies that would prevent HIV infection. That’s what’s keeping me busy most of the time.”
Louis Venturelli, student body president, said this is a topic students should care about.
“I think that they should be aware that this is a global epidemic,” Venturelli said. “It’s happening in industrialized countries and developing countries. I think the students should know what’s going on in the world around them to have a better sense of what will be in the future.”
Bringing such a high-profile scientist to visit the university shows Quinnipiac’s growth and its stronger commitment to academics, Venturelli said.
“Of course the academic component was always strong—however we are starting to branch out more in terms of thinking of global initiatives, national initiatives and local initiatives,” Venturelli said.