Hello again ICAD Blog! As Dara has provided a background on ARC and their projects, I thought I would provide some more details about the specific work I have been doing with the organization.
Data Entry and Analysis
As explained, ARC has a peer educator program whereby MSM peer outreach workers are trained to provide support and information to peers on topics related to HIV/AIDS and also general sexual and health-related topics. ARC ran this program from October 2012-May 2013, and is currently running the same program with a new set of outreach workers this year.
The first thing I was tasked with was electronically entering all of data from the MSM peer educator (PE) forms from 2012/13. This proved to be quite the undertaking as there were 83 forms to go through with approximately 15 different topic areas from each form to cover and additional notations to transcribe. In addition to entering all the data into excel, I also completed a detailed research report on the findings so that ARC could draw from this document for future information dissemination activities*.
Some interesting points I drew from the analysis include:
- Locations of PE outreach sessions: The places where PE spoke to clients occurred all over the country and sometimes PE would reach clients remotely using Skype, Facebook, phone or messenger. This suggests that the peer educators from this project were reaching not only a quite large sample, but also a heterogeneous one.
- Some peer educators expressed that their clients had a general reluctance to use the health services offered by National AIDS Programme. For some this was attributable in part to a fear of confidence breach or that the services did not make them feel safe, however others did not report any reasoning.
- Peer educators also noted of issues of discrimination and fear that clients had in their lives (“gay-bashing”), and some made reference to the apparent need for further counseling for their clients.
Ongoing Monitoring and Data Entry of Current MSM Peer Educator Project 2013/2014
Given that the peer educator program is an ongoing venture, I have been tasked with helping to monitor their data collection and material distribution. I meet up with the peer educators and I get to touch base with them on their outreach work, go over their peer educator forms, and ensure that the information they are collecting is accurate and detailed. They are a very animated and hilarious group of young men so meeting with them is always a highlight.
I am also thinking of resources that I can put together to aid them in their outreach activities. So far I have completed a basic “Tips for Data Collection” handout for them. I also thought it would be a good idea to do an audio recording of an example peer educator/client interaction for reference purposes. I am trying to get this recorded this week and then share the audio clip on the facebook group they are apart of and/or download it onto their personal music players.
Proposing a New Data Collection System!
As you may have garnered data entry and analysis can take a long time ( = people power = $). Every time I enter data for analysis or code/clean data or group themes I always think that there has to be a better way. Not just because data entry can be a bit monotonous, but also because there is great potential for error when entering data by hand. Further, the information recorded by peer educators is accomplished after the interactions take place, which can result in some inaccuracies when completing the peer educator forms. There is also a delay between when the peer educators complete the forms, when they submit them and then when they are analyzed, which might mean the whole data collection system is not very reflexive. I was inspired by this TED talks to see if the implementation of mobile data collection for ARC would be possible! Right now because of funding this project does not seem so feasible. I have however written up a proposal for how this project could be implemented. We will see how this one evolves in the coming months, it might be a flop though (but being flexible, accepting these flops and moving on has been key for me in this internship position)!
MORE Documentation Work: Newsletters!
One of the most exciting things (at least I think!) that I am working on now is a series of newsletters for ARC. I am really enjoying this new project, as I am so accustomed to writing very formal research reports. I have designed the layout for the newsletters and thinking up different ideas for their content, and then writing them. It is a little daunting to be covering every aspect of the newsletter production process, especially because I am not so versed on laying out documents. However, I have made fast friends MailChimp and Publisher and am now subscribed to MANY other newsletters from other NGOs to get some good examples/ideas. If you would like to get on ARC’s mailing list please let me know in the comments below!
EVEN MORE Documentation/Research Work: Focus Groups? Research Poster? Presentations?
I am always looking forward to propose new ways to document ARC’s activities and get their message out! The next item that I am investigating is the possibility
of conducting focus groups with ARC’s peer educators. There are real structural barriers to accessing health care services for MSM populations; which intersects with issues of stigma, discrimination and confidentiality concerns in Antigua and Barbuda. While this has been investigated and reported in a large-scale Internet survey, having an internally produced research document for dissemination purposes might be a strong venture…especially if done in a creative and unique way.
In sum, there is a lot of work to be done with both ARC and WAR. Sometimes working for two organizations during the week can be a bit overwhelming and there are times when I feel I am not contributing enough to one or the other. That being said I so appreciate the opportunity get two organizational perspectives on health and HIV/AIDs in Antigua and am learning so much.
*Note: I could not really do any correlation analysis or report any statistically significant findings as there is variation amongst peer educators in terms of how the peer educator sessions are conducted, and also what and how information is collected. This variation amongst peer educators results in the data being significantly skewed for certain thematic analyses.