In the smoggy center of Dar es Salaam, a bustling hub of coastal commerce and Tanzania's largest city, six undergraduates--three from Duke and three from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill--spent eight weeks of their summer participating in research relevant to HIV. They were participants in an internship program sponsored by the two universities, along with two colleges in Tanzania, called Partners in Education and Research in sub-Saharan Africa (PERSA).
PERSA was founded in 2003 by Sumit Shah B.S.E. '04, then a junior at the Pratt School of Engineering. He had gone to Tanzania that summer to intern with Tanzanian physician and former Duke fellow Ramaiya Kaushik. Shah evaluated HIV-positive patients' files to develop statistics on disease trends and shadowed Kaushik on his patient rounds. The experience, he recalls, was "enlightening" and "appalling" and "a lesson in compassion," and after he returned, he wanted to share it with others. And so, with financial support from the Pratt School and associate dean Russell Holloway, he started the program.
"The AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has warranted emergency status," Shah says. "There's so much to be done." PERSA interns found that out for themselves last summer. Hayden Madry '04 studied the economic impact of HIV/AIDS on two national corporations in Dar es Salaam. "HIV/AIDS has clearly had a devastating economic impact in this part of the world," says Madry. "But I wanted to look closely at the numbers. I wanted to observe how exactly workers perceive productivity losses and how management deals with HIV/AIDS in the workplace." Madry, like the other five PERSA interns, was paired with a Tanzanian student from a college in Dar es Salaam for the duration of his study. "It would have been nearly impossible to obtain [research] results without Andreus [Nshala]--even if I could speak fluent Swahili. I'd come to what seemed like a complete impasse--some sort of cultural barrier--and he'd navigate us through with ease."
January 31, 2005