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Chicago and Rwandan Women Discuss HIV/AIDS
by Andrew Davis
2006-01-01

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The Fairmont Hotel's Chancellor Room was the site of a historic forum that sought to empower women while tackling the issue of HIV/AIDS. On Dec. 1, approximately 100 individuals attended From Chicago to Rwanda: Empowering Women in the Fight Against AIDS, an event designed to discuss worldwide responses to the pandemic.

Lora Branch of the Chicago Department of Public Health moderated the HIV/AIDS discussion. At one point, Branch rattled off a number of sobering statistics, including that there are 4,225 women living with the disease in Chicago—and that Black and Hispanic females account for almost 90 percent of all HIV infections in teens and adult women in the city between 2003-'04.

Chicago-based physician Mardge Cohen and Rwandans Felicite Rwemarika and Naila Muganyinka talked about their work to increase women's access to HIV treatment through WE-ACTx, an international community-based initiative. Rwemarika is the study coordinator of RWISA ( the Rwandan Women's Interassociation Study and Assessment ) , an NIH-supported study of 900 HIV-infected women. Muganyinka, who is openly HIV-positive, not only receives care through the WE-ACTx program but is also part of the organization's staff in the food program. ( Also in attendance was Frank Mugisha, director of the WE-ACTx food program. )

In addition, Cynthia Tucker, AIDS Foundation of Chicago's ( AFC's ) director of grantmaking, discussed the South Side Women's Collaborative, an innovative program aimed at spreading the word about HIV prevention to African-American women. The collaborative involves the Chicago Women's AIDS Project, the Christian Community Health Center and the South Side Help Center.

AFC hosted the event.


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