Anthony Nguyen, a Peace Corps Master’s International student from the USF College of Public Health serving in Togo, was awarded the Student Honorary Award for Research and Practice by the COPH to present his research at an international AIDS and STI conference held in Harare, Zimbabwe.
The International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) is held biannually and serves as the premiere scientific conference in HIV/AIDS in Africa, according to Nguyen. The 18th conference took place Nov. 29 – Dec. 4.
The COPH’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program is currently ranked 16th in the nation by the Peace Corps and has 35 volunteers spanning the globe.
Nguyen shared his experiences at the event:
Globally, the prevalence of HIV infection among women is higher than that of men, and in many places, it is twice as high. Previous clinic-based studies have suggested that gender-based violence may contribute to this unequal burden for women.
Using demographics and health surveys to assess the relationship between intimate partner violence and HIV infection using a population-based sample of Togolese women, I found that in Togo, where the prevalence of HIV in the general population is relatively low (2.5%), gender-focused programs to prevent or detect HIV infection may be more effective when implemented at the clinic level than at the community level.
My abstract was accepted for a poster presentation, but last minute changes in my supervisor’s plan put me in front of more than 100 HIV/AIDS researchers, program planners and activists to do an oral presentation.
Intimidated and nervous for my first presentation in front of such crowd, I found the experience rewarding and crucial for professional development.
After my presentation, researchers from Zimbabwe and Kenya approached me to exchange contacts and project ideas.
Of the many sessions I attended, I especially enjoyed listening to a panel discussion that involved representatives from UNAIDS, PEPFAR (The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), civil societies and members from key populations including injection drug users, men who sleep with men and sex workers.
The panel addressed challenges and discrimination faced by members of key populations and how donors and governments can help with these issues to increase access to HIV services for these members.
I also enjoyed talks on HIV vaccine development, HIV self-testing in Africa, HIV and human papillomavirus coinfection and the African response to Ebola among others.
The whole experience was fantastic—including the trip.
While waiting in line at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia, I met a researcher from Togo who is working on reporting the first case of human meningitis with swine origin in Africa.
I am currently helping that researcher with the revisions of a manuscript.
It was amazing to engage with researchers from many places and to hear talks from leaders in organizations like the WHO or UNICEF. Attending the conference is definitely a highlight of my academic career thus far.
Nguyen will continue to volunteer in Togo and return to the U.S. in August 2016. Upon successful completion of his service, he will be awarded an MPH in epidemiology.
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health. Photos courtesy of Anthony Nguyen.