Twelve hours into the event, it’s still a packed house. A thousand college students are getting footloose on the ballroom floor, while Kelsey McCarthy stands on the sideines taking in the moment. It’s her third year organizing the Dance Marathon on the U.C. Berkeley campus (Check out DM 2010). The annual event raises money for the Elizabeth Glaiser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and, as the crowd swells to new numbers every year, it helps raise awareness too.

Kelsey McCarthy on the Berkeley campus

McCarthy building awareness about pediatric AIDS on the Berkeley campus

Upon graduation, McCarthy – who is pursuing a degree in Sociology and a minor in Global Poverty and Practice – hopes to play a part in the global effort to curb the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In June 2011, she will travel to Cape Coast, Ghana to intern and assist (ProWorld) with prevention education. She hopes to one day work with an NGO specializing in global health initiatives.

McCarthy attributes her keen interest in preventative health education to a classroom encounter with Paul Farmer, a renown physician and co-founder of the NGO, Partners in Health (PIH). During a lecture, he shared two photos of the same man; one photo showed the man dying of AIDS and the other showed the man after receiving anti-retroviral medication. The juxtaposition was not only striking, but both depressing and uplifting all at once. After treatment, the man looked completely health again.

At that moment, it hit McCarthy: illness and death need not go hand-in-hand. There are ways to intervene. More people should have access to help. More people should be spreading the word.

This is her starting point.