Don’t be afraid to ask the right questions to get the right answers.

Week 1- Internship in HIV Prevention and Surveillance (Positive Voices Project) at PHE

Following the success of my research proposal and application, I was awarded a Charity Insights Scholarship to undertake an exciting internship in the HIV/STI Department at PHE. I worked on a project called Positive Voices: National Survey of People Living with HIV (PLHIV). The aim of this cross-sectional study is to assess the behaviours, treatment patterns and healthcare needs of PLHIV. Therefore, in this unique project, people living with HIV are not only patients but also key actors which contribute to improving HIV prevention programmes, treatment and care services at the national level.

Last year, Positive Voices survey team conducted a successful pilot study that enrolled approximately 1000 patients and contained over 100 data items, including a number of sociodemographic questions which have never been collected as part of a national surveillance programme before, such as educational attainment, employment status, and poverty measures.

In the pilot survey, some ONS SEC questions were not included because they were considered intrusive or inappropriate during assessment with patients and stakeholders.  People who live with HIV may experience many challenges, but how do you find out about their experiences without asking the right questions! So, my objectives are to design and implement an alternative way to measure the SES of survey participants which can be used as an explanatory variable for analysis of risk behaviours and clinical outcomes.

I am excited about this internship because this research project closely aligns with my interests and future directions. It is a great opportunity to use my past research experiences as well as the technical skills that I have acquired during my undergraduate and PhD studies.

Highlights of my first week at PHE have been to meet the survey team, to chat with members of the HIV/STI Department and to learn more about the survey and the work that PHE do to improve the life of people living with HIV. Moreover, while doing intensive literature searches, I came across very interesting papers explaining how to develop SES constructs using scoring systems, principal component analysis and cluster analysis which will be extremely valuable for the next stage of my project.

Reflecting back to this first week, I feel very lucky to have been selected for the Charity Insights Scheme and to have the opportunity to work on the Positive Voices project. It gives me a chance to see another aspect of HIV prevention research and its application in practices. Working with a team of committed individuals really gets me excited to perform well, so I am enthusiastically looking forward the following weeks!

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