Evolution of an Epidemic

Evolution of an Epidemic (HST.434) takes students on an in-depth journey to the heart of the HIV epidemic in KwaZulu-Katal, South Africa. Using a combination of lectures, site visits, and patient and study participant interviews, the class challenges the students to not just learn about the biology of a disease, but to immerse themselves in the full complexity of an epidemic and understand how the medical, scientific, and public health communities identify, respond to, and ultimately shape an epidemic.

The Inside View

Shulammite Lim

2020 HST.434 Alum

I feel as though I have stepped into a world much larger than my previous one."

Elena Andree

2020 HST.434 Alum

What was so incredible about all of these things I learned and observed was that it was mostly gained through asking questions myself and talking to the people that were affected by HIV."

Application Process

MIT and Harvard undergraduates are both eligible to apply for this two-week IAP course. Apply for HST.434

Course Details

Traveling throughout KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, students will hear lectures from experts in fields ranging from virology to public health policy, tour HIV research facilities and hospitals in South Africa, participate in a session with participants in the FRESH science and social good research program, and meet Zulu traditional healers that work with the Ragon Institute’s iTEACH program to bring HIV and TB care to rural KwaZulu-Natal. Each year wraps up with a visit to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve where students enjoy South Africa’s beautiful landscapes and wildlife while completing their final course presentations and assignments.

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The Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard brings together scientists and engineers from diverse fields to better understand the immune system and support human health.


The Ragon hosts regular events for the academic community or for the public.