UCLA CARE’s Kieta Mutepfa Talks About World AIDS Day 2013

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November 18 2013

Kieta MutepfaIn the run-up to AIDS Research Alliance’s World AIDS Day Concert at The Colburn School, we spoke with Kieta D. Mutepfa, MSW, Senior Community Health Program Representative at UCLA’s Center for Clinical AIDS Research & Education (CARE). CARE is partnering, for the second year, with AIDS Research Alliance to promote this commemorative concert. Here, Kieta talks about ARA’s World AIDS Day Concert, the ongoing UCLA-AIDS Research Alliance partnership, and the role that women play in achieving ARA’s dream - an AIDS-free generation.

What does World AIDS Day mean to you?

To me, World AIDS Day is a culmination of 32 years of struggle and of progress. It is also an opportunity to celebrate those family members, friends and colleagues who have lost their lives to AIDS—to honor and remember them.

What inspired you to partner with AIDS Research Alliance on World AIDS Day 2013, at The Colburn School?

UCLA CARE wanted to partner with ARA again this year because World AIDS Day 2012 at The Colburn School was AMAZING. And it was not traditional at all. It brought together individuals of varied backgrounds for a classical music concert infused with jazz. Music has been a part of the HIV/AIDS movement since the beginning – with artists like Bono and others speaking out openly about this disease. Music seems the perfect vehicle to bring people together.

ARA is part of the UCLA Clinical Trial Unit. We at UCLA work closely with Dr. Brown and Carolyn, as well as other ARA research staff, to bring innovative creative biomedical approaches to finding a cure for HIV. So it is only appropriate to partner with such a great community agency.

Why is it important to invest in HIV/AIDS cure research now?

It is important to invest now so that future generations – my daughter, our children’s children – can look back and say, “Wow, I’m glad Mommy and Daddy worked so hard to find a cure for HIV. Now I don’t have to worry, and neither will my children’s children.” Generations born and unborn deserve a cure.

What role are women playing in achieving an AIDS-free generation?

Dázon Dixon Diallo, founder and president of SisterLove in Atlanta Georgia, is an HIV activist, advocate and researcher. She says in all of her presentations that women will be the ones to find a cure for HIV. What she means is that women often live in silence, so the more of us who know our status and get linked to care, the more we will be able to educate our friends, family members and peers. We will be the ones who carry the message.

From an advocacy standpoint, the more women we can educate about HIV and empower, the more the message will spread. And the more women are knowledgeable about their bodies and HIV transmission, the more they are able to engage their partners in discussions about HIV, and the more likely they are to protect themselves and influence their partners.

The growing number of women involved in research—from the very top – is beginning to have influence, including the direction of cure research. We need women in power to implement change that positively affects women on the ground. UCLA’s own Dr. Judith Currier is the vice chair of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group [ACTG]. Next year, she will become the chair. She may be the youngest woman ever to hold that position.

More broadly, we need to see that women have added value to research. Women have been shown to be critical thinkers who know how to work within systems and how to bring people together. When it comes to HIV, when we are at the table, we will be able to further progress. But we have to be at the table.

Any further hopes and dreams for an AIDS-free generation?

Now we are seeing HIV research focused on a cure, a vaccine, microbicides, and Pre-exposure prophylaxis [PrEP]. There are more options than ever. And that gives me hope.

Reserve your free tickets to ARA’s World AIDS Day Concert at The Colburn School.

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