Divya Chandra - Tugela Ferry, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Tugela Ferry, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

This year the International AIDS Conference was held in Durban, a main city 2.5 hours away from Tugela Ferry. I had the privilege of attending the conference and listening to the amazing work that is being done in the field of HIV/AIDS. Particular highlights of the conference include speeches from Charlize Theron, Bill Gates, Elton John and Prince Harry.

Career goal: I am interested in using epidemiological methods to understand how conflict and political instability impact health. I plan to pursue a PhD in epidemiology and would ultimately like to become a researcher at an institution like the World Bank or UN in order to pursue this kind of interdisciplinary research.

Internship outline: South Africa experiences a high burden of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) co-infection. Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT) is an intervention recommended by the WHO to reduce the risk of developing TB among people living with HIV. Therefore, I conducted a retrospective cohort study to better understand correlates of IPT initiation among HIV+ patients in Tugela Ferry. Additionally, I sought to characterize the patient population that initiated antiretroviral therapy (ART) between 2015 and 2016. With the help of the head nurses and data capturers at two clinics, Gateway Clinic and Ethembeni Clinic, I was able to gather data from 571 medical records.  

Value of experience: This summer really opened my eyes to the challenges of conducting research in a resource-limited setting. I faced obstacles related to getting the appropriate approval to work in the clinics, data quality, and at times, transportation. However, being able to work through these challenges has given me valuable insight that will better prepare me for global health research in the future.

Best moment/experience: A group of us (including fellow YSPH students Sara Chronister and Louis Gregory) took a weekend trip to Capetown, where we visited Cape Point.  After taking in some beautiful scenery, we decided to head back to the Airbnb we were staying at.  While my friend was putting his bag in the trunk, a baboon unexpectedly came from behind and took a bag in the trunk containing a giraffe sculpture I had bought for my mother!  Luckily, because it wasn’t food (what baboons primarily seek out from tourists) the baboon dropped the bag on top of a hill nearby, and a security guard was able to retrieve it for me.  However, in the end, the giraffe sculpture got stolen in the airport bathroom that same weekend when we were flying back to KwaZulu-Natal.  It became a running joke the remainder of the summer that the giraffe sculpture and I were not meant to be.

Funding source: Downs Fellowship and Coca-Cola World Fund At Yale

Divya Chandra - Internship