Students meet with ambassador to Uganda
U.S. Ambassador Deborah R. Malac talked to students about programs and resources the U.S. provides to help Uganda combat the epidemic. (Jim Kelly | The Media School)

U.S. Ambassador Deborah R. Malac talked to students about programs and resources the U.S. provides to help Uganda combat the epidemic. (Jim Kelly | The Media School)

Over the past two days, we have been students in the African Center For Media Excellence. While a lot of us were battling jetlag, a certain visitor seemed to perk us all up.

Wednesday afternoon we met the United States Ambassador to Uganda, Deborah R. Malac. The center’s director and IU alumnus Peter Mwesige set up the meeting for us.

Before we began classes. I didn’t know how invested the United States was in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I quickly learned that under President Bush, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was created. This fund has become the largest global fund to combat HIV/AIDS, especially in Uganda.

The program has made a huge impact in Uganda, and it remains the biggest funder for ARV and PREP treatment in the country. It seemed like every guest speaker we had was pointing to it as the reason the HIV/AIDS yearly infections had been controlled. I was confused how this program could be so successful, yet I had never heard of the success in the states.

Students tapped into Malac's data and discussion to prepare for their reporting. They met with her at the African Center For Media Excellence. (Jim Kelly | The Media School)

Students tapped into Malac’s data and discussion to prepare for their reporting. They met with her at the African Center For Media Excellence. (Jim Kelly | The Media School)

Although our visit with the ambassador was short, it was nothing short of amazing. Deborah Malac gave us deeper research into the program.  For example, she told us the average Ugandan is a 14-year-old girl, as Uganda is populated mostly by people under the age of 20.

This is why most of PEPFAR’s resources go to education of adolescent girls. Adolescent girls are two times as likely as boys to get infection. One in four girls will become pregnant.  A couple of our students plan to cover this, and I’m interested to see what they find.

The visit from the ambassador lit a spark and reminded us why we are here. We finished pitching our stories and rested up for our first day as Ugandan journalist in the morning.