Hello everyone! I am Haylea, one of SORT’s current Co-Presidents. For the past 3 months, I have been living in Johannesburg, South Africa working in a medical male circumcision (MMC) clinic (the Winnie Mandela Male Sexual Health Clinic) in a township just outside of the city called Tembisa along with another 2nd year MPH student, Michelle. The Aurum Institute, a research and health programs institution in South Africa that focuses on HIV and TB programs, is responsible for running the MMC clinic. Let me tell you guys, this clinic is phenomenal. Even given the fact that the clinic is set up in an extremely low-resource setting, there have been over 27,000 men circumcised in the clinic since it was opened in 2012. The clinic has the capacity to circumcise around 180 men a day. For a bit of background information, MMC reduces a man’s risk of contracting HIV by up to 60% according to a large scale study conducted in 2005. In countries with a high prevalence of HIV and a low prevalence of circumcision, MMC can be a really important public health intervention. We have learned so much about circumcision, both medical and traditional, in South Africa and its importance as an HIV intervention. I won’t bore you all with that here, but if you’re interested, feel free to contact me!
Our primary goal this summer was to design and conduct a research study to determine how female partners felt about medical male circumcision, how they wanted to be involved in the procedure (if at all), and their current knowledge about the procedure. Within our first 3 days here, we put together a 25 page research protocol and submitted our study to ethics. However, Africa-time got a hold of us (we didn’t hear back from ethics until the end of July), and we just re-submitted our study to ethics on August 6th. There are some wonderful people at the Aurum Institute who have agreed to help us continue this research study once we receive ethical approval, so Michelle and I hope to have interesting results to share in the future! In the meantime, we have both been working on additional data analysis research projects for the institute. I have completed two projects, one was creating a database for and analyzing existing data from the Youth Psychosocial Program and the other was describing how the appointment system is used at the MMC Clinic. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to use the Epi skills I’ve been learning in class in a practical setting. This summer, I’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to research design, both prospective and retrospective, data analysis using SAS, creating a database using Epi Info, and developing recommendations for program improvement.
Aside from work, I have had the opportunity to explore a great deal of South Africa and learn so much about its history. It’s incredible to be here long enough to begin to feel the history of the Apartheid and the embedded racism that still exists. Alåthough South Africa has come a long way since the end of the Apartheid, there is still a great deal of inequality in this country, and I know there are wonderful people here who give the countråy a bright future.
Here are a few pictures to depict my favorite things that I’ve done:
I leave here in just 4 short days, and, honestly, even writing this I am getting emotional. I know that South Africa, the wonderful kindness I have experienced here, and the incredible people that I have met will always hold a special place in my heart.