Thursday, December 1, 2016

Shout Out to My Hero--My Mom--on World AIDS Day (With Video)

So the internet tells me it's World AIDS Day, which I guess is another random holiday I didn't know existed that's come into being since the advent of social media? Maybe not, I don't know. 

What I do know is that since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, my mom has spent her career fighting the transmission and impact of HIV/AIDS all over the world, and for this (among other reasons) she is truly my hero.

I can't begin to compete with the fierce and inspiring life my mother has led--and that she is still leading--by working full time to combat HIV/AIDS. (On some level, I think this is why I had to move 5,000 miles away from her). Both of her parents had died of cancer by the time she was 11. She was rejected by her biological family and went into foster care. She wanted to be a nurse, and her male high school guidance counselor (in 1963!) told her she should become a doctor. 

She did.

Since the 1980's, my mom has worked against HIV/AIDS, first trying to stop the transmission of the disease among the homeless mentally ill population in NYC. (Not surprisingly, there is a big overlap between AIDS infection and mental illness). 

When anti-retroviral medications reduced the morbidity of HIV/AIDS in the west, my mom began working internationally in "AIDS hot spots" around the world, training health care providers and clinicians in Rwanda, India, Nepal, South Africa, the Philippines, and other developing nations to help them assist HIV-positive patients in accessing and remaining compliant with medications, and avoid transmission of the virus to others.

Here is a YouTube link to a very accessible and interesting talk my mom gave a couple of years ago to an AIDS organization in Toronto. It's long (about 50 minutes) but even the first few minutes give a good overview of the disease, its origins, how it has spread, what is being done about it, etc. 

If you are at all interested in the topic of HIV/AIDS, this talk gives a good basic overview delivered in a charming Bronx accent.

Happy World AIDS Day to my public health and social justice hero, Dr. Francine Cournos!







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