Thursday was a big day for Low. First, it played shelter to Harry Potter-cum-Allen Ginsberg. Then just a few hours later, it hosted the University Lecture starring Wafaa El-Sadr, Director of the Global Health Initiative at Mailman School of Public Health here at Columbia. Her lecture entitled, “The HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Global Tragedy, Lasting Triumphs,” traced out her immensely successful and humbling career in stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The lecture began on a more light-hearted note as PrezBo introduced her as an “Egyptian, who wears cowboy boots.” Sure enough, she stepped up to the microphone, wearing her distinctly American shoes, to talk about distinctly global issues. Her talk began by taking us back to 1980 when some of the first cases of AIDS were reported in the US. There were “five mysterious cases” of young men, who had come down with a rare form of pneumonia generally affecting only the elderly and those with a weakened immune system. El-Sadr said that she and the other doctors “thought it would go away.” Yet, just a few years later, over 100,000 cases were reported in the US.