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VISIONS Group to Sponsor AIDS Conference

Students Solicit International Speakers; Focus Will Be Health Crisis in Developing Areas

By Amber L. Ramage

VISIONS Harvard, a student organization dedicated to international service projects and global health, is recruiting students to help organize and take part in an international AIDS conference to be held May 3.

Co-sponsored by the Institute of Politics and titled "AIDS in Developing Countries and the Western Response," the conference aims to foster awareness about the AIDS crisis in the developing world and the West's role in ameliorating that crisis.

"Students are really the ones who will be doing the research in the future and creating the public policy," said Leyla Marrouk '99, a VISIONS member. "By getting students involved in things of this sort early, we give them a head start."

"I think that really is the main goal: to give them a feel for what they can do in the rest of the world," she added.

The conference has already confirmed several speakers ranging from international public health experts to a representative of India's Ministry of Health.

The conference will include a black-tie fundraising banquet that will help to fund international AIDS education efforts in Asia and Africa. According to Marrouk, organizers hope to attract some celebrities to this special dinner.

Organizers are also compiling a VISIONS journal that will be distributed at the conference and to all Harvard undergraduates. The journal has already received submissions from several renowned activists, government officials and AIDS researchers.

"We are in the process of recruiting a number of other individuals who can offer a wealth of experience in dealing with AIDS in developing societies," the co-Founder and President of VISIONS, Vivek H. Murthy '97, wrote in an e-mail sent to various campus organizations to solicit conference involvement.

Inspired by his own experiences in India, Murthy first began to organize this conference last month. Since then, according to Marrouk, conference organizers have contacted dozens of potential speakers.

Marrouk said there is a need for more awareness about the enormity of the AIDS epidemic in Asia.

"It is my impression that there is such a huge problem [with AIDS] in Asia," she said.

Marrouk said that students from all academic disciplines are invited to join in the conference, and that leadership positions are still available.

"To work on the conference, anyone can just submit their name," Marrouk said. "We're just looking for enthusiastic people."

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