New Course Examines HIV/AIDS


World AIDS Day will take place again this year on December 1, to raise awareness of the global AIDS epidemic.

A new Darden School of Business course “Public-Private Partnerships: Fighting HIV/AIDS in the United States,” led by Professor Mary Margaret Frank, with the guidance of Mary Ann Leeper, the Rust Visiting Professor of Business Administration at Darden, intends to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS throughout the year – and well into the future.

The course brings together graduate students from several disciplines at the University of Virginia to study how the development of public-private partnerships (PPPs) can help fight serious health issues, such as HIV/AIDS, in cities across the U.S.

Throughout the academic year, 14 graduate students – seven from the Darden School and seven from the School of Law, the Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and Public Health Sciences at U.Va. Health System – will gather to share insights from their areas of expertise. They will examine if and how public private partnerships work to improve  the lives of the more than 1 million people infected with HIV in the U.S. and how to effect outreach programs that work to prevent the more than 56,000 new HIV infections that occur each year.

“Winning the battle against the HIV/AIDS crisis will require talented people from various disciplines to work together for the common goal of saving lives,” said Frank. “To create effective programs, governments and the private sector must collaborate. There’s no other way.”

PPPs are playing an increasingly important role in addressing social issues, as state and federal governments face budget crises resulting from the global financial meltdown.  

“Each city in the U.S. has a different way of dealing with HIV/AIDS – and some work better than others,” said Frank. “The goal is to give students a framework to analyze treatment and prevention programs of the disease, as well as how to better the tools to move the ball forward.” The students’ final project will be to design a real-life PPP to address HIV/AIDS.

Fighting the disease is of particular importance to Frank and Leeper. For 10 years, Leeper served as president and chief operating officer of the Chicago-based Female Health Company (FHC), which produces and sells the female condom to fight HIV/AIDS around the world. She now serves as the company’s senior strategic adviser, while Frank sits on the company’s board and chairs the audit committee.

In 2008, Frank received the John Colley Award at Darden, given to faculty members who create a “rich social environment outside of the curriculum.” The award provided her with the seed money to create the course of her dreams. 

 “At Darden, we develop leaders in the world of practical affairs,” says Frank. “And what’s more practical than trying to positively impact people’s lives? This course will highlight for the leaders of tomorrow how they can use their talents to promote the welfare of their communities.”

Founded in 1955, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business improves society by developing principled leaders in the world of practical affairs.

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