Women drug users:
our voices, our lives, our health
I had the privilege of being invited to speak at AIDS 2014 as part of a symposium on women who use drugs. It was a conference of firsts. As a PhD candidate and early career researcher this was my first invitation to a conference, and an international conference at that. It was also the first time that a conference session would be comprised entirely of women, discussing drugs and the issues affecting them and their communities. In this article, I will be sharing my experience of the session and its location in the wider conference and society at large.
From science to practice?
HIV-negative people using HIV medication to prevent infection
John de Wit
The large-scale iPrEx trial among gay men has shown that taking one pill daily of Truvada, a combination of two HIV medications, significantly reduces the chances of HIV-negative men becoming infected. Use of this oral Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is controversial, and AIDS 2014 provided a global platform for sharing new evidence and debating this ‘hot topic’.
What role PrEP will play in HIV prevention for gay men? was the burning question in the main conference program and at community forums in Melbourne. Whereas advocates highlight the potential for PrEP to offer protection to men who have condomless sex, critics are concerned that the availability of PrEP will further erode the condom-use culture, and raise concerns about adherence, unknown long-term side-effects, cost and inequitable access.
Online technology can boost research
Digital technology pervades nearly every aspect of our society, from personal communication and entertainment to sensitive data storage. Our research practices need to reflect this. For researchers at CSRH and across the world, internet technology is becoming progressively more important as it enables researchers to conduct different aspects of their work more quickly, more economically, and more visibly. At the same time, integrating the constantly evolving world of
internet technology into existing research practices can be challenging.
For most researchers, knowing the current possibilities of internet technology and how to put them into practice are not part of their core business. Yet having this knowledge can save time, money, and make research much more visible in today’s world of fast communication and information overload. This is why CSRH actively employs internet technology to take full advantage of the benefits of online research. Here are five ways researchers can do this.
Reporting with Infographics
CSRH recently completed a study on the experiences of Aboriginal people in NSW living with hepatitis C which was funded by the NSW Ministry of Health. In communicating our research results to Aboriginal people with hepatitis C, we were challenged by our cultural mentor, Clair Jackson, to produce a report that was more suited to the Aboriginal community.
As researchers we had observed the growing use of infographics to represent complex information in a clear and concise manner across varied platforms. We were particularly inspired by the way information was presented in the Liver Danger Zone report by Hepatitis Australia
which made us consider how we could better report our quantitative and qualitative research findings.
Couples with mixed HIV status: cross-cultural perspectives on serodiscordance
This exciting book project seeks to go beyond the dominant focus on HIV transmission risk in serodiscordant couples to instead understand the diverse and socially situated dynamics that shape how serodiscordance is experienced and managed by couples.
The editors, Dr Asha Persson and Shana Hughes, want to explore serodiscordant gay and/or heterosexual couples (including polygamous relationships) in a range of cultural and epidemiological settings through discussion pieces, personal stories, community perspectives, and critical reviews of the literature. Contributions based on empirical research and/or conceptual analysis from all geographic regions are of particular interest.
Dr Stephen Bell, CSRH Research Fellow, delivered a proffered paper entitled ‘Health service-based HIV testing and counselling: a review of European guidelines’. This paper provided an overview of key findings that to date have come out of a mixed method project examining the models for appropriate and effective pre-test discussion and post-test counselling led by Professor John de Wit and funded by the HIV in Europe initiative. Dr Bell and Professor de Wit also organised a pre-conference consultation with key stakeholders to discuss project findings.
The HepHIV 2014 conference was a new initiative providing the fields of HIV and viral hepatitis with an opportunity to learn from each other and to reflect on their experiences. HepHIV 2014 was supported by a broad coalition of partners, including the HIV in Europe Initiative that works for optimal testing and earlier care for HIV in Europe. CSRH Director Professor John de Wit has been a member of the Steering Committee of HIV in Europe since its inception in 2007.
HIV Awareness Week 2014 Forum:
Ending HIV—tackling stigma, discrimination and criminalisation
This first CSRH HIV Awareness Week Forum brought together key stakeholders from affected communities to discuss stigma, discrimination and criminalisation as critical barriers to the HIV response in New South Wales and the importance of effectively addressing these social issues to ending HIV. In recent years, CSRH has developed a growing research program regarding stigma, discrimination and criminalisation in relation to HIV as well as viral hepatitis. Increasing this research provides guidance program and policy development and evaluation.
Ms Jane Costello, President of Positive Life NSW, provided the opening address of the forum. This was followed by Q&A with a panel of outstanding experts: Mr Craig Cooper, CEO of Positive Life NSW; Ms Fiona Poeder, Director of Programs and Services at NUAA; Mr Alan Brotherton, Director of Policy, Strategy and Research at ACON; Dr Loren Brener, Senior Research Fellow at CSRH; Mr Cameron Cox, Peer Outreach Worker at SWOP; and Ms Alexandra Stratigos, Solicitor at HALC.
A video recording of the proceedings of the Forum is accessible through the CSRH website.
Postgraduate students shine at symposium
In late August, three of our research students presented at a symposium jointly coordinated by The Kirby Institute, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and the Centre for Social Research in Health. Where the marginal matters: Strengthening trans-disciplinary connections in postgraduate health research on sex, drugs and risk was the theme of this inaugural postgraduate symposium and we look forward to this
being the first of many such productive collaborations for research students across these centres.
Hilary Caldwell (CSRH) received the Top Ranked Abstract: Community and Social Research for her paper, ‘A cultural double standard: Public responses to female sex tourism’. Nyah Harwood presented her research plans in the area of ‘Trans people’s injecting practices in Australia: freedom and resistance’, and Kenneth Yates synthesised his research achievements in the area of ‘NSP clients and service provision in Western Sydney’.