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Student works to combat AIDS in US and South Africa

by Matt Collette

When the AIDS out­break emerged in the United States in the early 80s, young people were at the fore­front of the fight to combat the deadly new dis­ease through out­spoken advo­cacy and polit­ical action. Though much of the fight against HIV and AIDS has now moved from the United States to the global stage, Amer­ican col­lege stu­dents have con­tinued to take a lead­er­ship role.

At North­eastern, third-​​year biology major Angelina Sassi is helping to spark change on both a local and global scale. Sassi is the co-​​founder and former pres­i­dent of Northeastern’s chapter of FACE AIDS, a stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion that works to fight HIV/​AIDS though health equity and social jus­tice ini­tia­tives. Founded in 2005, the group has chap­ters on more than 2,000 col­leges cam­puses across the United States.

“A lot of North­eastern stu­dents have a uniquely global per­spec­tive” that car­ries over into the kind of work the group does, Sassi explained. This global point of view, which group mem­bers hone through co-​​op and other experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­ni­ties, gives them the oppor­tu­nity to fight HIV and AIDS both locally and inter­na­tion­ally, she said.

Sassi plans on doing her part to stem the AIDS epi­demic in South Africa; this fall, she will be working on co-​​op at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foun­da­tion in Cape Town.

“We didn’t grow up in the ’80s and ’90s when people were dying every day from this in America, but that’s still what’s hap­pening in Africa,” Sassi said. “I want to be part of the move­ment working to end that.”

Back at North­eastern, FACE AIDS works to engage the campus com­mu­nity. The group holds sev­eral token campus events each year, including a fashion show that pro­motes safe sex and “Step Out Against AIDS,” which is cospon­sored by African-​​American stu­dent groups. Mem­bers work to encourage stu­dents to get tested to HIV and hope to one day offer free testing and coun­seling throughout the year.

Ear­lier this summer, Sassi vol­un­teered for Take The Test Boston, a week­long com­mu­nity mobi­liza­tion ini­tia­tive aimed at encour­aging people to get tested for HIV. The aware­ness event helped a few hun­dred people who oth­er­wise not get tested learn their status, added Sassi.

“This has to be a cause that’s impor­tant to our gen­er­a­tion,” Sassi said. “We can make the kind of impact that’s felt not just in our back­yard, but around the world.”

Originally published on news@Northeastern on July 15, 2013

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