Written by Meti Abdella, BS candidate in biology, Bethany College, West Virginia and the Schilsky Family Summer Research Scholar in the 2023 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program
As a participant in this year’s Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public and Global Health Track, I was granted the incredible opportunity to work under Ozge Sensoy Bahar, PhD, as part of the Brown School International Center for Child Health and Development, a center involved in a number of intervention research projects to reduce the effects of poverty on child and family health in sub-Saharan African countries. One such research project was given the name, “Suubi4Her” which means ‘hope for her.’ It is an intervention that incorporates an economic empowerment and family strengthening component to reduce sexual risk taking behaviors among adolescent girls in a Ugandan region heavily affected by poverty.
During high school, I often volunteered for organizations that served vulnerable and underprivileged communities in my country, Ethiopia, with a particular focus on children and adolescents. I developed a passion to continue to advocate in the public health field for disadvantaged groups including children and women around the world. This summer, I am honored to be part of such impactful work by studying the reasons that push young women in Uganda to be involved in risky sexual behaviors.
According to The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 71% of people affected with HIV/AIDS live in sub Saharan African countries. In Uganda, adolescent girls are four times more likely to be infected than adolescent boys. This is mostly due to the structural and cultural obstacles young women and girls face such as lack of equitable access to health care and education. In order to better tackle the issue of HIV prevention, it is important to focus on this subset of the population and prioritize those who have received the “shorter end of the stick”.