For Ken Overberg, S.J., poverty is a window into a whole different world. Poverty makes people sick, he says. Just look at the world’s HIV/AIDS statistics. “Ninety percent of the world’s people with AIDS don’t have access to treatment because they’re poor,” Overberg says. “The key part is world poverty, and that’s due to economic decisions people make.”
Overberg, a professor of theology, is using his position as a Jesuit and a theologian, along with a research grant he recently was awarded, to take a yearlong sabbatical to tackle one of the world’s most pressing problems—the link between HIV/AIDS and poverty.
“HIV/AIDS is an epidemic that threatens the world and is getting worse even though many in the U.S. fail to realize that,” he says. “We’ve lost consciousness of the severity of it, so one of my hopes is to raise or renew the consciousness of the challenges that it poses, especially in the developing world where most people with HIV live.”
His research focuses on large systemic issues that are tangential to the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially poverty, oppression of women, war and forced migration.
“These are the political and economic issues that many researchers claim are the breeding grounds for AIDS,” he says. “We have to address the sociopolitical issues if we want to address AIDS.”