Monday, March 23, 2009

Simonne Horwitz's academic expertise in the history of the ongoing HIV/AIDs epidemic worldwide has direct relevance to the situation now unfolding in Saskatchewan. CBC News reporter Geoff Leo contacted Simonne (courtesy of a tip from fellow medical historian Erika Dyck) in the course of his investigation of the soaring rate of HIV/AIDs in this province. The story broke today. Simonne (shown here in a happier mood yesterday, at the USSU ceremony at which she received a 2009 Teaching Excellence Award) has been all over CBC radio and television in the last few hours. She was interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti in part one (starting at the 13th minute on the podcast) of the nationally broadcast The Current (click here to listen), and by Sheila Coles on CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition - Extra (click here to listen).

In both cases (the Morning Edition interview is longer and more probing), Simonne presented the truly sobering data in a global and a local context succinctly, clearly, and unflinchingly. In just a few minutes she set out the human elements -- social, cultural, economic, political -- that facilitate the spread of the disease, are ravaged by its consequences, and in which the key to effective responses is to be found. It was nothing less than a call to informed, compassionate, and urgent action.

Next year, Simonne will offer a new honours seminar that directly engages with these issues: History 498.3, "History of HIV/AIDA, With a Special Focus on the Developing World". It now seems that Saskatchewan will also loom large in those discussions.