July 24, 2012
One in a series about Black Americans engaged in leadership roles for the 2012 International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012).
For Adaora A. Adimora, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, there are many reasons why being a part of the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., is exciting. But she has particularly enjoyed working with international leaders and having a chance to help shape the agenda of one of the most important HIV conferences in the world.
Dr. Adimora, who is also an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the UNC School of Global Public Health, has served on the conference's Scientific Program Committee as the co-chairwoman of the Epidemiology and Prevention Track. She says that this year's conference is especially important because this is the first International AIDS Conference that's been held in the U.S. in more than 20 years. "Plus this is an election year," says Dr. Adimora. "We're entering a new era -- one where for the first time we can truly imagine an end of the AIDS epidemic in the future, and it's exciting to come together to share ideas about how to achieve this goal."
While an attending physician in the infectious diseases division at Harlem Hospital in the 1980s, Dr. Adimora, a graduate of Yale School of Medicine, became involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. "People with HIV comprised a large portion of the patients I saw. I was especially overwhelmed by the huge number of Black people with HIV that I was seeing -- and by my distinct impression that social injustice was playing a role in the epidemic's disproportionate impact on people of color." She's been an activist ever since, participating in various events annually for World AIDS Day, including a panel discussion at the White House with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to discuss women and HIV infection.
In 2009, Dr. Adimora provided testimony to Congress concerning the epidemiology of HIV infection in the U.S., particularly among African Americans, as well as research on the factors that affect individual and community vulnerability to HIV. She also authored a seminal paper entitled "Social Context, Sexual Networks, and Racial Disparities in Rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections." Currently the principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health's AIDS International Training and Research Program, Dr. Adimora trains researchers from China, Malawi, and Cameroon to conduct AIDS-related research that could result in the prevention of AIDS in those countries.
Dr. Adimora says the International AIDS Conference will provide a forum for people to come together to share ideas. "We'll get a chance to network with each other in the pursuit of common goals, such as helping people who have HIV live healthier lives, preventing uninfected people from getting HIV, and ending this epidemic."
LaShieka Purvis Hunter is a freelance writer and editor based in Bay Shore, N.Y.