Master of Public Health Student
Katherine Bollbach recalls standing at a doorstep in the Mwange Refugee Camp in Zambia. Inside, a 40-year-old Congolese woman infected with HIV was so weak she could barely roll over. The woman asked Bollbach and her colleague to come back tomorrow. They reluctantly agreed, leaving bags of rice and sugar. The woman, named Blandine, died a day later. It was as an undergrad in the summer of 2005 when Bollbach found herself recruiting Congolese refugees to join a support program. She found that many refugees were afraid of being tested or exposed as HIV-positive and, like Blandine, missed out on antiretroviral treatments available at a nearby hospital. “We knew that there were dozens, if not hundreds, of others in the camp who were similarly suffering in silence with little support,” Bollbach says.
Bollbach co-founded Face AIDS to provide health education, positive-living workshops and incentives to set up businesses for people with HIV. The program expanded in 2007 to Rwanda and now has 30 chapters. As a founding team member and current vice president of programs at Global Health Corps, Bollbach motivates recent graduates and young professionals worldwide to serve one-year fellowships with major health organizations. “I would like to find new ways that go beyond tokenism to give youth a voice in the policymaking processes that affect their health and their futures,” she says.