Zambian princess addresses AIDS

By Emily Alpert

Students gathered in the Biological Sciences Learning Center Thursday night to hear Princess Kasune Zulu of Zambia, a renowned HIV/AIDS activist.

Zulu is employed by the World Vision Organization’s HIV/AIDS HOPE Initiative in Zambia, where she trains physicians in patient care and teaches prevention measures to Zambian youth. She has also helped raise funds to fight the pandemic through her international speaking engagements.

Zulu herself was orphaned by the AIDS pandemic, to which she lost both parents by her 17th birthday. In 1997, she tested positive for HIV/AIDS. At the time, she said, “My doctor didn’t even know how to counsel me.”

Zulu stressed the importance of working in partnership with local communities, including traditional healers. In Zambia, she said, “People live on less than a dollar, so people have more access to traditional healers” than to Western medicine.

In addition, she said, a holistic approach to HIV/AIDS prevention is key, including proper nutrition and the prevention of tuberculosis, malaria and other opportunistic infections. Zulu also spoke on the effectiveness of home-based care programs, which open up overcrowded hospital beds, and of reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV through the administration of anti-retroviral drugs.

“The response is so small compared to the problem,” said Zulu. She criticized funding restrictions that prevent U.S. money from going towards condom distribution, commenting, “People have sex. The condom is just a provision for them to be protected.”

Zulu added that condom distributors must tailor their messages to developing countries. “Education is not that high in many of these countries,” she said. “Just throwing the condom out there will not be enough—unless it’s used correctly, consistently.”

The event was organized by Stephanie Albin, a first-year in the Pritzker School of Medicine, as part of Americans for Informed Democracy’s nationwide program, “Fighting for What’s Right.” The program seeks to raise awareness of global development issues through town hall meetings and videoconferences nationwide.