I graduated from Carleton College in June, 2007 with a BA in Biology. In preparation for my Fulbright grant, I interned with the South Dakota Department of Health in the area of infectious diseases. I am currently in the process of applying to medical school in the United States. While in Russia I will be studying the methods of HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and outreach in Yoshkar-Ola Mari El.
My interest in the AIDS epidemic in Russia first began when I was studying Russian language and culture in Moscow in the spring of 2005. The Eastern European and Central Asian epidemic is one of the fastest growing in the world and much different from HIV/AIDS epidemics in other parts of the world with high HIV infection rates. Since HIV first arrived in the ex-Soviet countries it stayed primarily within marginalized groups. However, there has been evidence presented more recently that HIV infection is starting to move into more mainstream populations. Especially alarming for Russia, a country facing a serious demographic crisis, is the estimate that around 80% of infected persons are under the age of 30.
While in Yoshkar-Ola, I will focus my research on how officials and non-governmental organizations in Mari-El are working to educate the public large and at-risk individuals as to the dangers of HIV infections and ways to prevent infection, as well as services provided to aide prevention. Additionally, I want to investigate what is being done to dispel myths about HIV/AIDS and the stigma that still surrounds the disease in Russia.