David Ryan, Exec. Director of FACE AIDS, Gives Speech

Executive Director of FACE AIDS David Ryan spoke to the Upper Class as part of Wellness Week on the importance of addressing HIV and AIDS in Africa. FACE AIDS, an entirely student-run campaign, fundraises for HIV and AIDS prevention organizations and spreads awareness of the global epidemic. The campaign also creates sources of income for those affected by HIV or AIDS. Heads of the Andover FACE AIDS chapter Kimberly Chang ’08 and Elinor Garcia-Garcia ’08 introduced the speaker, who began the presentation by encouraging students to take advantage of their opportunities and become more involved in activism. Showing pictures and portraits from his trip to Africa this summer, Ryan shared the immense cultural differences he encountered and their overwhelming impact on him. After explaining FACE AIDS’ mission, Ryan opened up the presentation to the audience and answered student questions. An Interview with David Ryan of FACE AIDS Why were you drawn to the issue of global AIDS specifically? I think that it’s the global issue for which there’s the biggest gap between what we can do and what we are doing. “Can do” as far as technology, science, knowledge…we have it but it’s not getting to the places that need it the most. So that’s the place where I feel like I can have an impact. How did you first become involved in FACE AIDS? Three of my friends were the co-founders while I was still in school. We were all sophomores but they took time off to [found FACE AIDS]. I stayed in school and worked as a student volunteer. When I graduated, I had the opportunity to devote all my time in it. Can you describe your first visit to Africa and its impact on you? My first visit to sub-Saharan Africa was this summer. I went to Rwanda to visit our project there and the Partners in Health clinics, which are what our fundraising goes toward. The number one thing is it took what I knew at an intellectual level and made me know it on an emotional and deeper level, and that’s a huge difference. What can students do to help the cause? There are three fields. First, there’s activism. We’re not so heavily involved in that. FACE AIDS is trying to bring in broad-based interest and get as many people as possible to ask that question. Once you’re asking that question, there are a lot of ways to be politically active. Second, there’s fundraising, which is what we do. Then there’s direct service: you can work for [an] NGO [Non-Governmental Organization]. And then just becoming an aware person and spreading that awareness – you never know what you could accomplish. What is the most important thing you hope students will take away from tonight’s presentation? The gap is a social tragedy and not a medical tragedy. As students, we have the ability – maybe a better ability – than anyone else to address social tragedies.