September 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Malawi: AIDS: HIV: AIDS Education: Detroit Free Press: Malawi RPCV Kate Murphy fighting against AIDS

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Malawi: Peace Corps Malawi : The Peace Corps in Malawi: September 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Malawi: AIDS: HIV: AIDS Education: Detroit Free Press: Malawi RPCV Kate Murphy fighting against AIDS

By Admin1 (admin) ( on Saturday, October 02, 2004 - 2:54 pm: Edit Post

Malawi RPCV Kate Murphy fighting against AIDS

Malawi RPCV Kate Murphy fighting against AIDS

Malawi RPCV Kate Murphy fighting against AIDS

DESIREE COOPER: Basic needs priority over AIDS fight

September 30, 2004


Three years ago, Kate Murphy was cursed.

The Royal Oak resident was living in an African village when an angry elder dared her not to cross a line in front of her hut or something terrible would happen.

"I ignored him and went to a wedding and contracted cholera," she said. "I didn't return for 10 days."

But that didn't spook Murphy. After all, the whole reason she'd gone to Africa was to fight a curse: the curse of HIV and AIDS.

Thinking globally

Murphy's degree in psychology from the University of Michigan was still warm in 2001 when she enlisted in the Peace Corps. She headed for Malawi, a southern African nation about the size of Pennsylvania where the life expectancy has dropped to 40 years as a result of AIDS.

"I wanted to get more experience in addressing HIV/AIDS," said Murphy, now 25 and an outreach specialist at Detroit's AIDS Partnership Michigan. "Africa was the place to get it."

She immediately was met with two surprises.

"I thought it would be a depressing place because of all of the poverty and disease," she said of the country where over half of the 10.5 million residents live in poverty and 14.4 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV-positive. "But they were a friendly and cheerful people. Where we see poverty, they see a practical, free house with a grass roof that keeps them cool. They even view death differently. For them, there's a season for life, when the harvest is in, and a season for death, when rain, famine and cholera are everywhere."

The second surprise, she said, was despite the fact that AIDS has left the nation with 380,000 orphans, fighting the disease is not the people's primary concern.

"I went there as part of a maternal and child survival project focusing on HIV," Murphy said. "But who's going to think about AIDS when your kids haven't eaten for three days? They have an expression about 'sleeping hungry,' which is the worst thing imaginable."

Murphy stayed in Malawi for 27 months, spending most of her time helping to set up two maize mills to raise money for the village's orphans. It was only in the weeks before her departure that the project managed to establish a mobile HIV testing service.

"Only six people had been tested before I left," she said. "But it's a start."

Acting locally

Murphy's been surprised at the parallels she's noticed between the AIDS problem in Detroit and abroad.

"Here I've been working with mothers and their children," she said. "But AIDS isn't what's on their minds, either. Safe housing, food and work -- you have to deal with the basic survival issues before you can deal with HIV."

She said that poverty combined with substance abuse, mental health problems and poor access to medical care remain stumbling blocks to addressing AIDS in Detroit, where an estimated 7,070 people are HIV-positive. The parallels have confirmed for Murphy that AIDS will remain a global curse until we see that it is not just about disease and social policy.

It's about human dignity.

This weekend, seven Michigan cities will participate in AIDS Walk Michigan. The annual AIDS Walk has raised nearly $1.4 million for AIDS-related agencies statewide since 1999. The 5-kilometer walk up Woodward will begin with registration at Comerica Park at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The walk begins, rain or shine, at 10 a.m.

For more information, call 888-791-9255 or go to

Contact DESIREE COOPER at 313-222-6625 or

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Director Gaddi Vasquez:  The PCOL Interview Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview
PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.
Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention
Governor Schwarzenegger praised the Peace Corps at the Republican National Convention: "We're the America that sends out Peace Corps volunteers to teach village children." Schwarzenegger has previously acknowledged his debt to his father-in-law, Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver, for teaching him "the joy of public service" and Arnold is encouraging volunteerism by creating California Service Corps and tapping his wife, Maria Shriver, to lead it. Leave your comments and who can come up with the best Current Events Funny?
 Peace Corps: One of the Best Faces of America Peace Corps: One of the Best Faces of America
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and can you come up with a Political Funny?

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Detroit Free Press

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Malawi; AIDS; HIV; AIDS Education



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.