I graduated from Oberlin College in 2004 with a BA in neuroscience, but with lively interests in Russian culture and language, political activism and public health. I had the opportunity to bring these interests together as a volunteer in Samara, Russia with the U.S.–Russia Volunteer Initiative. While there, I taught Russian youth about HIV basics and advocated among healthcare professionals and business leaders for a larger response to what is currently the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world. I was fascinated by the unique historical circumstances setting Russian AIDS activists off in a mad dash to establish the social infrastructure needed to prepare for the virus.
Upon returning to the states, I began working as an HIV case manager in the Bronx, NY. This turned out to be serendipitous, as Population Services International (PSI), the non-governmental organization (NGO) with whom I worked in Samara, is now developing case management programs for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Russia, and is finding indigenous Russian case management experience in short supply.
I am excited to bring my experience working with PLWHA in the Bronx to Samara’s case management program, and to continue working as a peer educator and advocate. I will also be studying the interactions that NGOs such as PSI have both with communities affected by HIV/AIDS and with those making policy decisions that impinge upon affected communities.