As I near the halfway point of my internship I find myself very excited to begin the second half. I am not sure if I am more excited to have some time off for the Christmas break, or begin to roll out a large study I have been helping to prepare. The main purpose of the study is to estimate the size of populations with a high risk of contracting HIV (defined in this study as gay, trans or men who have sex with men and sex workers). We will also be gathering information on the behaviours of the populations and performing integrated mapping to identify hotspots in the countries being studied.
Although I am in the Dominican Republic, the study is not being completed here. It will be completed in countries that are part of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). These are very small islands with populations ranging from 50,000 to 150,000, presenting a unique challenge in our research. The small populations make it difficult to obtain a statistically significant sample size, especially when attempting to reach out to highly stigmatized populations. In each of the countries there are laws against homosexuality and sex work.
This will be the first study of its kind to be completed in many of these countries so I am very motivated to see what this can lead to. Having a solid estimation of the population size and details about the population allows public health programs to be more efficient and can potentially draw international funding to the cause.
In regards to my personal experiences, I have been unbelievably lucky to be part of the NGO I am working with in the Dominican. My colleagues and supervisor at ProActividad and CVC have provided countless opportunities to enjoy myself outside of work, and challenge me inside the office. I never thought I would have the opportunity to watch a ceremony and film at the National Theater for the International LGBT Film Festival or participate in a small demonstration representing the rights of LGBT persons.