Journeying to Uganda to fight AIDS, U of M student Meagan Brown experienced countless
thrills and adventures.
“The bus hurtled down the road like an extremely fast bullet,” said Brown. “I have
never been more aware of my own mortality. The potholes and rocks we hit caused all
the passengers to lurch forward and bounce around. It was like a really bad rollercoaster.
I went completely airborne, clearing my seat every five minutes or so.”
Experiencing a new side of life, one with deathtrap buses, bush cricket dinners
and terrorist bombings, Brown, a graduate student in medical anthropology, and Ginger
McKay, a U of M alumna, spent the summer in Africa to help in the fight against AIDS.
The two are evaluating the Immunization By Education Strategy (IBES) program of the
Savannah Sunrise Foundation (SAS).
|Alumna Ginger McKay (at center holding child) and Meagan Brown (at right holding child)
spent the summer in Uganda helping in the fight against AIDS.
According to a 2007 study, one million people in Uganda are infected with HIV/AIDS.
About 110,000 of those people are children and 520,000 are women. Each year, approximately
77,000 Ugandans die from the disease.
SAS is a non-profit organization that has established an HIV education program that
was initiated by Dr. Robert Muhumza in schools across Uganda. By collecting data from
interviews with Ugandans, Brown and McKay hope to develop tools with which to evaluate
the program internally. They are working closely with Muhumza with the goal of strengthening
the education program and determining its impact on the community.
Brown and McKay have developed a survey that will provide the foundation with measurable
data proving the effectiveness of the work of SAS. Said Brown, “The foundation doesn’t
really track how much knowledge the children are acquiring over time, so of course
to demonstrate whether or not the children are learning, a simple survey is necessary
to test their knowledge.”
Although the two have run into some bureaucratic roadblocks, they are making progress.
Parents of the children are eager to help the program by participating in the surveys,
and the kids are learning. One of the main functions of the IBES program is teaching
children about the importance of self-esteem as well as teaching facts about HIV and
“I’m continually impressed with the quality and extent of the knowledge that the
children have who participate in SAS,” said McKay. “They not only have the basic knowledge
of what is HIV and how it is transmitted, but also understand the social context and
behaviors that perpetuate the epidemic.”
Brown and McKay are evaluating SAS to help continue lowering the Ugandan infection
rate. The country’s HIV prevalence rate reached 30 percent in the early 1990s, but
with the help of government social marketing campaigns and education programs such
as this one, it has been reduced to around 7 percent.
But Ugandans are not the only ones who have benefited.
“My experience conducting anthropological research in Kampala, Uganda, is proving
to be one of the most positive learning experiences of my life,” Brown said.
For more information on SAS, visit www.sasfoundationafrica.org. For Brown’s and McKay’s blogs, visit http://meaganinuganda.blogspot.com and http://gingerinuganda.blogspot.com respectively.
— by James Northcutt