FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington invites the public to a presentation by Nicole Kellett, UMF assistant professor of anthropology, on “AIDS, Stigma and Economic Empowerment in West Nile Uganda.” This is the next lecture in The Public Classroom faculty speaker series and takes place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 21, in The Landing, in the UMF Olsen Student Center.

The HIV epidemic has led to a global health effort with particular attention given to the hardest hit continent, Africa. Nevertheless, prevalence rates remain high in particular regions of sub-Saharan Africa and women continue to bear the burden of HIV risk and infection.

One primary obstacle to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS is stigma associated with the disease. Women are particularly vulnerable to AIDS-related stigma and once rejected by others are often unable to care for themselves or their children. Economic empowerment programs are often heralded as a means for women with few employment options to financially support themselves and their families as well as lessen experiences with stigma.

In this talk, Kellett describes the work of “LifeStitches,” an economic empowerment program for HIV positive women living in the West Nile Region of Uganda. LifeStitches is a nonprofit sewing cooperative that allows women with HIV to learn sewing skills and sell their products in local, national and international markets.

Drawing from research she and her colleagues have conducted in Uganda, Kellett analyzes changing experiences of stigma in the West Nile region, how LifeStitches has influenced women’s sense of belonging, and the role of AIDS stigma in men’s notions of masculinity.

Colorful cloth totebags hand-made by women in LifeStitches will be available for sale on site following the presentation with all profits benefitting HIV positive women and their children.

Kellett received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of New Mexico.

She has conducted research on various topics regarding the environment, health, economic development, and gender-based violence in Belize, the U.S. Southwest, Uganda and highland Peru.

“The Public Classroom” series is sponsored by the UMF Office of the President. Lectures in this series are free and open to the public.

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