Wang, Joshua Weiyuan
Thailand- HIV Prevention Clinical Research Site of the HPTN
For the past 20 years, JHU has been collaborating with the Research Institute of Health Sciences, Chiang Mai University on HIV epidemiologic research and fielding HIV prevention trials. Currently, there are several projects which are sponsored by the HPTN - 043/Project Accept evaluating mobile VCT and post-test support services to reduce HIV incidence; 052, evaluating when to start HAART and the prevention of sexual transmission of HIV; 058 addresses long-term buprenorphine treatment on HIV prevention among opiate dependent injects; and 063, a prevention for positives pilot study. We are also conducting a field trial of community mobilization in rural areas for the prevention of methamphetamine use/abuse among adolescents and young adults.
One of my goals while doing my PhD at Johns Hopkins involves me seeking opportunities to learn and prepare myself for a future career in the broad field of viral infectious diseases. This is where my scientific interest and future (I believe) will be in. My education with the Pathobiology program at the school of Medicine has shown thus far me that dealing with infectious diseases is complicated. This is because it transcends into realms beyond academia such as human behavior, the environment, politics and public health policy. While my program has offered numerous insights into the realm of infectious disease in terms of basic science and therapeutic translational applications, I was keen to also gain experience in an epidemiological or public health setting. Thus when I was told that my application was successful for a 8 week summer Global Health Established Field Placement in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I was absolutely thrilled. Even though it would be a short experience, I strongly believed that this was an opportunity to bridge the gaps between academic theory- laboratory setting and practical on-the-ground experience in the field of infectious diseases.
My experience as a visiting research student with the Research Institute of Health Sciences (RIHES) at Chiang Mai University was a rewarding experience. I would however like to point out that a rewarding experience does not equate to an easy experience. Firstly, I do not speak Thai and thus, many times I had to depend on colleagues to translate what was discussed into English. Secondly, I had little formal training in behavioral or epidemiological research, hence I had to try my best to quickly adapt to this different form of research setting and overcome the steep learning curve that was in front of me. The teams that I was attached to were warm and patient with me and my constant questions. My interactions with them as well as members of the community also provided a lot of insight into how social problems played a big role in causing public health problems. In addition, their passion and infectious enthusiasm to overcome administrative red tape, budgetary and logistical constraints was also very inspiring and helped to spur me on even in times of personal difficulty and self-doubt.
My experiences in Thailand have taught me how social issues can improve or impede public health problems, and how these can have a subsequent effect on national development. This has also helped to develop my understanding of the problem of infectious diseases in a global health setting. For students who are interested in experiencing on the ground practical real world challenges related to global health, I would strongly recommend applying to the GHEFP.