Settling in Already

18 05 2012

Today, the fog that is jetlag that so heavily clouded my mind for the last four days has lifted. It was this morning, in a moment of clarity—encouraged by a good nights rest and a beautifully bright and crisp aired morning—that I noticed just how perfectly the mountains framed the Sidist Kilo area. There after, all my senses awoke and I began to make the correct associations with the sights and scents that felt so familiar but had eluded me the last few days. It was also then that my mind was finally in sync with my body, recognizing that yes: I am in Addis Ababa,Ethiopia.

Before I elaborate any further, I feel it is only appropriate that I introduce myself. My name is Berhan Hagos and as a rising junior I am majoring in International Comparative Studies and pursuing the Global Health Certificate.  For the next 7 weeks I will be working on a fieldwork project in Addis Ababa. This is not my first time in Ethiopia or even my second but one of my most recent visits to my birth place. Although it is a sort of homecoming, it is one that is an amalgamation of both the familiar and the new. The premise of my journey to Ethiopia this summer is focused on a project that was developed under the guidance of my community partner, Stand for Vulnerable Organization (SVO), my faculty advisor Dr. Sumi Ariely and supported by DGHI.

So what is exactly will I be doing in Addis Ababa? Ethiopia, not unlike many other Sub-Saharan African countries has experienced and continues to experience the burdens of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV/AIDS is a highly stigmatized disease and although the presence of stigma is widely acknowledged, it is not always understood. Understanding stigma is further complicated by the very local iterations of stigma, making it difficult to address effectively without an understanding of the demographical, cultural, and social intricacies of each community. HIV-related stigma impedes measures like universal access (treatment), HIV testing, and the efficiency of national response programs. Spurred by this information and my observations at the Blue Nile Children’s Clinic and the Ethiopian Public Health Association, this project aims to understand the perceptions and impact of HIV-related stigma in communities in Addis Ababa.

I, with the support of SVO will be conducting interviews by asking questions regarding: general HIV/AIDS knowledge, getting tested, employment opportunities and behaviors that may be stigmatizing. In this first week of my time in Addis AbabaI have been working on further developing and translating the surveys that will be used during the interview as well as receiving instruction on interviewing strategies.

As I continue to work on this project I also hope to be of services for SVO’s other projects and  their organizational aims of empowering vulnerable community members (especially women, children and the elderly) by providing different forms of grassroots support.

Thank you for your interest in this project and I hope you will continue to follow me along in my journey these upcoming weeks. As is often said in Ethiopia, Ciao!

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