When doing international work, you soon get used to the consequences of working with people in different time zones. You have just started the day and you already have 57 emails in your inbox from your colleagues abroad. Another is early morning Skype calls. Skype is definitely our best friend. How did people work internationally years ago, before the internet or Skype?
My Tuesday morning starts with a Skype call (this time in French) with the Mali team. We have just conducted a study to measure the HIV prevalence and risk behaviors of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Bamako that will inform future program planning. This is a good segue to the second pillar of Strategic Information, surveillance. Surveillance is the collection, analysis and interpretation of health data for public health practice. As part of the HIV epidemic, it’s important to regularly measure the HIV prevalence of the general population, as well as of key populations who might be at higher risk of HIV infection, such as sex workers, people who inject drugs and MSM. Research in many African countries indicates higher HIV prevalence among MSM. Unfortunately, MSM still face high levels of stigma and discrimination, as well as huge social, cultural and legal barriers, which make it difficult for them to access care.
I spend the remainder of the morning writing up the draft of the report of the MSM study. The study went smoothly and we are now in the process of preparing the results for dissemination in country. As part of the study, we used electronic tablets to conduct interviews, so the data was immediately uploaded onto a secured server and accessible to us in NY for review and analysis. Being able to use technology such as tablets makes our work much more efficient. I can’t imagine anyone being sad to say goodbye to paper questionnaires and the double-data entry for studies as it was needed in the past.
Time for lunch. I eat my salad in front of my computer. Gone are the days back in Spain when I would have a 90 minute lunch with my colleagues and then go back to work until 7 pm. I never thought I would get used to eating in front of my computer, but I have, and I do enjoy being able to go home at a more reasonable hour and spending time with my baby. Also, lunching at my desk isn’t so bad given my view of the Hudson River. I’m looking forward to finally seeing signs of spring in NYC through my office window. Cannot wait!
In the afternoon, I meet with one of my direct reports to discuss last quarter data and progress to targets for the project we have in South Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan is one of the newest countries in the world. It was founded in 2011 and, unfortunately, since then, there have been several conflicts and instability in the region. It’s been quite challenging to provide support to the project as the team in country has needed to evacuate the country several times. It seems things are finally getting better there!
MOVIE OF THE DAY: “The Normal Heart”
This is a great movie about the earlier days of the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men in New York City. Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts…If you haven’t watched it, it’s a must!