Facing AIDS on World AIDS Day

Facing AIDS

I'm facing AIDS by studying Public Health!

Dr. Winnie Siu writes…I am marking World AIDS Day in London, UK this year where I’m undertaking a master’s program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

An American classmate took this picture of me yesterday. Inspired by a campaign in the U.S., she encouraged me to complete the phrase “Facing AIDS” by turning it into a personalized sentence. The idea was to post the picture in a social media forum in order to reduce stigma against HIV. I don’t have Facebook or Twitter, so I’m posting it here.

I spent this past May working as a family medicine resident physician on the paediatrics ward of a hospital in rural Malawi. It was my first time returning to sub-Saharan Africa since a deeply moving journey to Zambia in 2008. And though I was not specifically working in the area of HIV, it still permeated everything I did and thought about; it was the explicit and implicit cause and result of so many other medical, social, political, structural, economic, ethical and equity issues.

One of the biggest reasons why, after completing my residency in family medicine, I am back in school this year studying public health is because I realized that I am woefully unequipped to disentangle these complexities. Therefore, I am facing AIDS in a classroom this year, through textbooks and lectures and impassioned discussions with my diverse classmates, some of whom come from areas where they face the reality of AIDS every day.

At times the classroom learning seems so distant and too theoretical, and I itch to get back on the field. I long to face AIDS by working and being face-to-face with those affected by AIDS. But, dreams take work and patience too. So, I read and listen, question and analyze, debate and learn. And I do this hoping that I can one day face AIDS equipped with the knowledge and skills to offer practical, positive change.

This guest post is contributed by Dr. Winnie Siu.  She is a Canadian physician currently working on a Masters program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.