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Just a few weeks ago, the most exciting thing I had planned for the summer was taking a General Chemistry II course in Dallas. Now I find myself in Zambia, an ocean away from the US, as a global health volunteer of the Bush Institute. I am helping to renovate a clinic and learn about cervical cancer from women at risk for the disease. In the blink of an eye, my summer plans changed and along with it, my perspectives of others and myself.
What has amazed me about my experience in Zambia is in learning how similar I am to Zambians. In most cases, the people I have met share my core values reading the importance of family, faith, and education. We differ, however in the opportunities available to us based upon where we live, particularly our access to health care and our ability to avoid preventable diseases, such as cervical cancer.
Growing up in America with health insurance, my family and I have never had to worry about access to health care. When we need medical treatment, we get it. This is not true for Zambians.
Death from cervical cancer is very rare in the US today due to the ready availability of Pap smears. In Zambia, cervical cancer is the most common cancer from which women suffer. In fact, Zambia has the second highest rate of cervical cancer in the world. And although cervical cancer can be prevented and is easily treated when caught in the early stages, it has been estimated that 80% of the women who get cervical cancer in Zambia eventually die of the disease.
When a woman dies, we all lose. Some may lose a daughter, mother, wife, sister, or friend. When a country loses a woman it loses a key stabilizing force in the family and community. It loses part of its future. That’s why the Zambian government is committed to combatting cervical cancer and the Bush Institute has joined to help them.
Like me, Zambian women are filled with potential and deserve the chance to live and show it. This summer, I learned about the power of chemistry, but in a way far different than I had expected. Though people live in different countries and speak different languages, when we allow ourselves to be open to those who are “different” a powerful interpersonal chemical reaction occurs that help us realize that at our core, we are not different at all. This summer I’ve learned how chemistry can bind and heal.
It is my hope that the health clinic that I helped to renovate with the Bush Institute in Zambia will serve as a safe haven, protecting the lives of women in the fight against cervical cancer. And though I still have to take General Chemistry II, when I do so, it will serve a far greater purpose – to help prepare me for my return to Zambia when I can join the fight against cervical cancer, not as a student, but as a doctor.
Melanie Enriquez is a premedical student entering her sophomore year at Southern Methodist University. She recently traveled to Zambia along with five other volunteers of the Bush Institute to support Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.
14 Things to Know About the Life-Saving Work of PEPFAR on its 14th Anniversary
This weekend marks the 14th anniversary of PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President George W. Bush signed into law on May 27, 2003 as part of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003. Since then PEPFAR has saved nearly 12 million lives. Here’s a look at 14 interesting facts about PEPFAR, which has lead the progress in the global campaign to end AIDS. In 2003, at the signing of the PEPFAR legislation, less than 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were on antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV/AIDS, now 11.5 million individuals are on ART due to PEPFAR. 99.5 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women are receiving ART, a more than 40 percent increase since the beginning of 2014. This has led to nearly 2 million babies being born HIV-free to infected mothers. Since the start of PEPFAR, new HIV Infections have declined 51 to 76 percent. Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) can reduce men&rs
President and Mrs. Bush's Visit to Namibia and Botswana in Photos
They delivered a message to Congress and all Americans: lives in Africa matter.
Building on America’s Leadership in Global Health
The new administration should stay the course as a strong leader in global health. This is a bipartisan effort, as both sides of the aisle have agreed on the importance of health care investments through successive Congresses and administrations, reflecting the priorities of the American people.
7 Things to Know about PEPFAR on World AIDS Day
Today marks World AIDS Day: a day to honor those lost, celebrate the global progress made in the fight against AIDS, and commit to put an end to the disease. In 2003, at the signing ceremony for the legislation that enacted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), President George W. Bush said, “We believe in the value and dignity of every human life. In the face of preventable death and suffering, we have a moral duty to act, and we are acting.” Since then, PEPFAR has delivered life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) to 11.5 million people, and nearly 2 million babies have been born HIV-free with PEPFAR support. PEPFAR’s success contributes to a coordinated global effort to end AIDS. UNAIDS reports that since 2000, 18.2 million people have access to treatment for HIV, new infections of HIV have decreased by over 1 million infections, and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 1.4 million. There is real hope for endin