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NOAIDSEstablished last year in response to the health needs of the New Orleans community, the New Orleans Albert Schweitzer Fellows Program, a collaboration with the Louisiana Public Health Institute, is continuing to address the region’s most pressing health needs—through Fellows’ individual Schweitzer projects and broader outreach activities alike. 

On Sept. 20, we’ll have a chance to support the Fellows in the latter: all eleven 2009-10 NOLA Schweitzer Fellows will participate in the NO/AIDS Walk, which raises funds for the prevention, care and support services provided by the NO/AIDS Task Force and other Louisiana AIDS service organizations. 

“As Schweitzer Fellows, we want to show our support for those living in our city with HIV/AIDS and our support for the organizations that serve those individuals,” says 2009-10 NOLA Schweitzer Fellow Jon Pennycuff, a student at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.  “Louisiana and New Orleans have some of the worst HIV/AIDS statistics in the country, and some data suggest that HIV prevalence in some populations in New Orleans is as high as 50 percent, so it is clear that it is crucial that we continue to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.” 

It was Pennycuff’s idea to participate in the Walk (“as a gay male, HIV/AIDS and raising awareness about the illness is extremely important to me,” he says)—and as soon as he suggested it, his Schweitzer cohort came on board. 

“The other Fellows have been truly supportive about getting behind the interests of one another, so when I suggested that we participate in the NO/AIDS walk, all of the New Orleans Schweitzer fellows really got behind the idea,” Pennycuff says. “As a class, we are committed to reaching out to all populations within New Orleans.” 

Pennycuff & co. have set a $250 fundraising goal. “Given the state of the economy, we know that a lot of people are worried about spending money,” he says. “We have asked family members and friends for small amounts.  At the end of the day, if we fall short of our goal, we are still adding to the collective total raised.  It is easy to look at a big number and become overwhelmed, but I think that we as Fellows need to remember that the money we raise—whatever the amount—will have an impact on someone’s life.” (To support the NOLA Schweitzer team by giving securely online, click here.)  

And the NOLA Fellows—well aware that despite the existence of healthcare and social service organizations like NO/AIDS, many New Orleans residents with HIV/AIDS lack the support they need—are all about delivering impact and raising awareness of the community’s health needs. 

“As the New Orleans Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is so new in New Orleans, we hope our participation in the NO/AIDS Walk will not only show our presence in the city, but also show our support for those living with HIV/AIDS,” Pennycuff says. “We want to raise as much awareness as possible, especially for those who are often forgotten.”