University of Oregon to host HIV/AIDS in Africa conference

EUGENE, Ore. -- (March 10, 2009) - Why are the highest levels of HIV infection and AIDS deaths in sub-Saharan Africa? Why is HIV/AIDS such a difficult problem in this part of the world? These questions and more will be discussed at an upcoming conference at the University of Oregon.

"You Can't Crush a Louse with Only One Thumb*: Integrating Biomedical and
Sociocultural Approaches to HIV/AIDS in Africa," will include two days of lectures, panel discussions and workshops on Friday, April 3, and Saturday, April 4. Attendance is free and open to the public. Complete information is available at

Keynote speakers include: Julie Overbaugh, HIV/AIDS research scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle; Pauline Peters, lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School; Michael Kaplan, executive director of the Cascade AIDS Project in Portland; and Deogratias "Deo" Niyizonkiza, executive director of Village Health Works.

The subject of an upcoming book by Pulitzer-prize winning author Tracy Kidder, Niyizonkiza escaped the civil war in his native country of Burundi in 1993 and built a new life in the U.S. In 2005, he returned to Burundi and has helped to establish a health clinic as part of the non-profit organization, Village Health Works.

"The premise of ‘You can't crush a louse with only one thumb' is that isolated biomedical or sociocultural approaches to HIV/AIDS in Africa will not succeed," said Janis Weeks, UO biology professor and co-director of the conference. "Conference participants will explore the view that an integrated biomedical and sociocultural approach to this disease is the most promising and effective way forward."

Eight workshops featuring experts from Eugene and around the world will explore HIV/AIDS in Africa in many contexts, including gender, student activism, cultural traditions, collaborations with African researchers, sports, technology and not-for-profit organizations.

At 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3, documentary filmmaker Robin Truesdale will screen "Tumbuka," a film set in a rural village of Zimbabwe. In the film, a young man tries to help his community overcome poverty, AIDS and the traditional gender roles that hinder his people. Seating is on a first come basis in the EMU Ben Linder room.

An evening concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3, in the EMU ballroom will feature high-energy African music and dance. Acts include Dance Africa, Vakasara Mbira, Hokoyo Marimba and Portland-based headliner Boka Marimba. The concert is a benefit for Tariro, an Oregon-based not-for-profit organization that funds the education of AIDS-affected young women in Zimbabwe. Admission is free, with donations accepted.

The conference also includes the spring 2009 national conference of FACE AIDS, a student organization that combats HIV/AIDS in Africa through chapters at more than 150 campuses. Hosted by the UO chapter, FACE AIDS activists from across the U.S. will share their experiences in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa.

"A significant aspect of this conference is the participation by students from the University of Oregon and other universities around the country," said keynote speaker Pauline Peters. "Committed action on the part of the students' generation can help lessen the devastation being caused by AIDS in parts of Africa and, more broadly, help work towards a more just global economy."

The conference is sponsored by FACE AIDS and the following UO departments: African Studies, Associated Students of UO, Biology, Clark Honors College, College of Arts and Sciences, Environmental Studies, Geography, Human Physiology, IE3 Global Internships, International Studies, School of Journalism and Communication, Political Science.

*Shona proverb (Zimbabwe): Chara chimwe hachitswanyi inda

About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is a world-class teaching and research institution and Oregon's flagship public university. The UO is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization made up of the 62 leading public and private research institutions in the United States and Canada. The University of Oregon is one of only two AAU members in the Pacific Northwest.

Contact: Julie Brown, 541-346-3185,

Source: Janis Weeks, 541-346-4517,

Link: UO African Studies,