Penn in Botswana

For the last five years, Harvey Friedman has racked up thousands of frequent flyer miles traveling to Botswana. Penn’s chief of infectious diseases runs a comprehensive HIV program there that provides clinical care and trains local providers.

With 38 percent of Botswana’s adults infected with HIV, the African nation is one of the hardest hit in the world. Penn currently has seven fulltime faculty in the republic helping provide care in public hospitals in Gaborone and Francistown.

The program—which began with support from a partnership of the Merck and Gates Foundations—also gives Penn residents and medical students the opportunity to participate during six-week electives.

“Do all of them love it? No,” says Friedman, “but I’d say 90 percent of them do, and at least half of them say it was the best experience they had in medical school.” With very sick patients to take care of, and less supervision and backup, the students are involved in minute-to-minute decisions that, says Friedman, make the experience “challenging but very rewarding and educational.”

In April, the program was awarded almost a million dollars in funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Now, Penn is stepping up the research side of the program and looking to involve other schools in the University. Already, the Nursing School has come on board, and Wharton is helping to design a more efficient system to manage HIV/AIDS therapy in the AIDS-ravaged country.

Originally published on October 5, 2006.

Originally published on October 5, 2006