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By: Elijah Watson

PUBH 420: “AIDS: Principles, Practices, and Politics” is a course offered every spring semester that is open to undergraduates, graduate students, and professional students. The goal of the AIDS course is “to understand the complexity and multidimensionality of the evolving phenomenon known as HIV/AIDS as a paradigm for the relationship between disease, society and public policy.” Led by Dr. Ron Strauss, UNC’s Executive Vice Provost and Chief International Officer of UNC and co-founder of the course, every Wednesday night students have the rare opportunity to hear from expert physicians, researchers, and panelists on topics ranging from HIV’s pathology to its impact on society.

The course was first offered in 1987, and since then the enrollment has increased to close to 500 students per year. Undergraduate and graduate students come from a wide range of departments and professional students are present from the schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Public Health and Nursing. Last year, the course lectures were broadcasted to local television channels and were also made available online. Proving the success of the online format, the UNC AIDS course lectures have been listed on the “Top Downloads” and “Top Collections” charts of iTunes University, a section of Apple’s iTunes that has educational materials from universities and organizations available to download for free.

Just to touch on a few of the lecture topics, this year students have gotten to ask a panel of HIV-positive people questions about the disease’s impact on their lives, learn about the challenges of HIV in the prison setting, and hear from the principal scientist of the RTI Global Gender Center on the relationship between women’s and gender issues and HIV. One of the most exciting things about the course is that the room is filled with students from a variety of backgrounds who can take this knowledge and make a unique impact in their future careers. Students never quite know what to expect when they walk in for class, but when they leave you can be sure that they walk out inspired and invigorated by the passion the speaker has for winning the fight against HIV.

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