From the Conga Line to the Front Line, Part 3: Reflections from Sydney Van Horn
Sydney Van Horn
Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, thousands of college students have stood UP 4 THE FIGHT at dance marathons—raising more than $435,000 to support the mission of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to end AIDS in children. Matthew Nersesian and Emma McCune, top fundraisers of University of California, Berkeley Dance Marathon, and University of California, Los Angeles Dance Marathon, went from the conga line to the front line, traveling to Tanzania to see their fundraising dollars at work at EGPAF supported sites.
After participating in Dance Marathon at UCLA for four years in college and now managing the UP 4 THE FIGHT program for almost three years, I can say that nothing has passionately affected my view of EGPAF’s mission to end AIDS in children more than our visit to the cities of Moshi and Arusha in Tanzania. Walking with Matt and Emma, the program’s top fundraisers for the 2014-2015 school year, through the regional and district hospitals, we were able to see life at every single level: premature babies, infants, children and adolescents in Ariel Clubs and Camps, young adults, pregnant women, and new mothers with HIV-positive and negative newborns in support groups. This experience of interaction and outreach proved to be a visual and physical demonstration that HIV is not a death sentence, but rather a complex chronic issue that can be manageable with the correct treatment, services, and EGPAF support.
We went beyond surface level and saw firsthand what EGPAF provides and supports in country – some things I wouldn’t even guessed. Whether it is a specific laboratory machine to reduce the time it takes to get an HIV-test result, the training of healthcare staff members on a new worldwide guideline, the employment of data clerks to obtain numbers for research and figure out ways to fill the gaps, or the construction of a building at a clinic to allow for more space, availability, and use – we were able to witness personally the results of these support systems and how crucial they are to create community for patients and better their lives overall.
To view more, watch our video of Matt and Emma’s trip to the field to experience EGPAF’s mission up close and personal. To find out how you could have the opportunity to travel with EGPAF in 2016, please visit www.up4thefight.org.