South Africa

Faculty Highlights

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The Amy Biehl Foundation

Upon reflecting on their daughter's life, Linda and Peter Biehl concluded that the most significant way they could commemorate Amy's dedication to ensuring human rights and racial justice in South Africa was to continue her work of empowering disadvantaged communities. The Biehls soon established the Amy Biehl Foundation (ABF) in the United States and the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust (ABFT) in South Africa. ABFT's work with and for disadvantaged black and colored communities exemplifies the Biehls' mission of weaving a barrier against violence.

In 2008, Linda Biehl was named the first UMass Lowell Greeley Scholar.

The Greeley Scholar program, named for the Rev. Dana McLean Greely of Concord, honors a distinguished advocate for peace, noted humanitarian or faith leader, by offering a limited residency at UMass Lowell during one semester each year. It is administered by the UML Peace and Conflict Studies Institute (PACSI), which since 1991 has promoted "education, research and practice concerning peace and conflict issues" at UMass Lowell. Read More...

Mother to Child Transmission of HIV
Dr. John L. Sullivan, professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine as well as research director at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is a co-discoverer of nevirapine and was the first to test the drug. In addition, it was Dr. Sullivan who first recognized that nevirapine would be particularly effective for the specific purpose of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV.

Mother-to-child-transmission remains a significant problem in the developing world, where each year, 600,000 babies contract HIV from their mothers. Put another way, every day, 2,000 babies are born who will become infected with HIV as a result of mother-to-child transmission. Studies show that 40 percent of mothers with HIV/AIDS who are not receiving treatment for their infection will transmit HIV to their newborn babies. For a baby who will not have access to three-drug anti-retroviral treatment, contracting HIV is tantamount to a death sentence. Most infants would not be expected to live past age 2.

The treatment pioneered by Dr. Sullivan is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission during the intrapartum or labor and delivery stage of pregnancy. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV takes place in one of three stages: in utero, labor and delivery or as a result of breast feeding. The largest percentage - 45 percent - of transmissions take place during labor and delivery, with in utero transmissions accounting for 17.5 percent and breast feeding responsible for 37.5 percent of transmissions. Nevirapine can prevent about 80 percent of labor-and-delivery infections.

As a result of Dr. Sullivan's discovery and tireless advocacy, nevirapine is now the therapy of choice in hospitals and clinics throughout Africa and in other countries in the developing world. The pharmaceutical company that manufactures nevirapine, Boehringer-Ingelheim, has made the drug available free of charge in 58 developing world countries since 2000 through its Viramune Donation Program. As of the end of 2005, nevirapine had been made available to 676,351 mother-infant pairs.

It is estimated that as a result of Dr. Sullivan's pioneering work, 81,000 babies worldwide who otherwise would have been infected with HIV did not contract the disease.

Chronicling the Struggle for Freedom
Padraig O'Malley, John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor for Peace and Reconciliation and longtime senior fellow at UMass Boston's John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, has been the driving force behind the "Heart of Hope" project that since 1989 has seen O'Malley annually interview more than 100 of South Africa's major figures. The collection presents a broad range of perspectives on events in South Africa during and after the Apartheid period. There are also summaries of historical events by year as well as descriptions of the historical background to place events in context.

Says O'Malley: "Interviews included Mandela, De Klerk, Buthelezi, Tutu, TerreBlanche, the murdered and still lamented Chris Hani - everyone from far right to far left & all in between. All members of Mandela's first cabinet and most of Mbeki's."

O'Malley estimates that he has conducted 1,500 to 1,600 interviews, creating approximately 2,500 hours of vital, irreplaceable South African oral history that will benefit journalists, scholars and ordinary citizens for generations to come. This project is a joint effort between UMass-Boston, the Mayibuye Center at the Robben Island Museum and the University of the Western Cape.
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Green Chemistry

Former UMass Lowell Professor, John Warner, the co-creator of the international Green Chemistry movement, is working with partners in to stage an All-Africa Green Chemistry conference in South Africa.

Says Professor Warner: "I believe that Green Chemistry is a key to the long term viability of Africa's industrial/economic development. I am convinced that the brand of chemistry I am promoting is not only good for the environment, but is also a major component of regional economic development.