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Grant helps create new sociology course to help AIDS patients

July 2, 2003

Sara Brallier, assistant professor of sociology at Coastal Carolina University, has been awarded a $6,000 grant through the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education and Generations Together at the University of Pittsburgh. Coastal matched the grant with in-kind support.

As a result of the grant, Brallier is teaching a late summer course - Sociology 455 - an innovative program that will incorporate a service learning component to her sociology of aging class.

The July 14-Aug. 15 class will work closely with older people with AIDS (ages 45 and older) in Horry County, pairing with CARETEAM, a nonprofit organization that provides companionship, transportation, meal assistance, medical services, financial support and other needed help.

Students who enroll will conduct a life history interview with an elderly person with AIDS, and they will act as the person's "buddy" for the semester, providing social support through telephone calls and visits.

"The most important thing is the unique companionship they (people with AIDS) would get," said Valerie Harrington, executive director of CARETEAM. "This will give them that connection to another human being that is so needed. Older adults with AIDS are among the most isolated of populations."

Some 1,300 people in the three-county area (Horry, Georgetown, Williamsburg) have been identified as HIV-positive, Harrington said, and her organization is helping 500 of them. Volunteers are always needed, she said.

The idea for the hands-on course, Brallier says, came about as a result of a previous grant study dealing with the responsiveness of health care systems to the local gay and lesbian community.

Students will also be required to design a flyer describing their experiences to be used to recruit other students into CARETEAM's buddy program, and they will be required to present basic facts about HIV/AIDS and older adults in appropriate forums.

For more information, call Brallier at 349-2470.