COPH professor presents on HIV epidemic in Ecuador

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Dr. Miguel Reina Ortiz, an alumnus and assistant professor in the USF College of Public Health has long held an interest in working to solve the HIV epidemic around the world and specifically in Ecuador, where most of his schooling and education took place. Reina Ortiz continuously conducts various research studies focused on health determinants and health behaviors associated with HIV in minority and vulnerable populations.

In addition to this research, he has a passion for community engagement in the form of education and instructional talks. Recently, he was invited by the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador-Sede Esmeraldas (PUCESE) as a speaker to discuss the current global, national, and local status of the HIV epidemic in an effort to continue to raise local awareness and knowledge in the fight against HIV.  

Over 150 people attended the presentation, and most of the audience was made up of university students and members of the general public. Reina Ortiz wanted to educate them on the current state of HIV/AIDS in the region to engage on a discussion about effective prevention strategies that adjust to the local realities, where new cases have started to slow in recent years.

“The goal was to provide an overview of global and national characteristics of the HIV epidemic and to create awareness about the current status of HIV in Ecuador and in the Esmeraldas region,” said Reina Ortiz.

Dr. Miguel Reina Ortiz (middle) at the conference where he presented with Aitor Urbina, MPH (left), Pro-rector of Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador-Sede Esmeraldas, and Christian Mora Torres, MBA (right), a university professor. (Photo courtesy of Reina Ortiz)

Reina Ortiz was also pleasantly surprised by how receptive the audience was to his message and how eager they were to learn about and discuss the topic among their peers.

“The presentation was very well received,” said Reina Ortiz. “An interesting exchange followed, which was not limited to questions to myself, as speaker, but rather a conversation between members of the audience and myself, discussing the current status and reasons behind it.”

Reina Ortiz (left) was interviewed by several local radio stations in regard to his presentation at the university conference. (Photo courtesy of Reina Ortiz)

It most likely won’t be long before Reina Ortiz is back on a stage presenting on topics related to HIV/AIDS again, as he currently has ongoing research dedicated to the topic. Two of his research projects have been developed in collaboration with Dr. Ricardo Izurieta, professor in COPH, as well as colleagues from Johns Hopkins University and Universidad San Francisco de Quito. These studies focus on how impactful behavioral nudges and financial incentives are increasing HIV testing in Ecuador, and he even hopes to study some of these same topics in the local Tampa Bay area one day.

“In the future, I would like to focus my research on how to improve HIV testing rates and related HIV care activities in Tampa Bay,” said Reina Ortiz. “I am particularly interested in comparing African descendant populations in Ecuador, Latin America and the United States with respect to HIV prevention strategies.”

Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health