Jonathan Smith MPH '11

South Africa, Swaziland, and Botswana

If you asked me last spring what I planned for the summer, I probably would have regurgitated my grant proposal’s abstract: I was planning a research project investigating tuberculosis (TB) and HIV vulnerabilities in the migrant population of South Africa. If you were lucky, I may have hinted at filming. However, armed with a camera, a research proposal and the support of my advisors, my summer turned out to be much more than I expected. I worked with Dr. Jhumka Gupta to investigate how contextual factors influence HIV and TB vulnerabilities among migrant laborers, specifically gold miners, and to investigate the health impact this oscillation had on the spread of TB and HIV coinfection in southern Africa. Driven by the neglect of human rights and the exploitation of labor in the gold mining industry, I also worked diligently on a documentary—They Go to Die—which investigates the health outcomes of miners released from the industry with no health infrastructure or health care. The film juxtaposes mining executives’ with coinfected miners who are struggling to stay alive, fusing my research with film and putting a human face on the situation. This film will become my thesis and my hope is that it will bring relevant, real-life experience to academic discourse and make my findings more accessible to the public. Since my research involved migrant labor, I spent the summer traveling between South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland to organize interviews, find ex-miners and do my research. Though it was unpredictable and hectic at times, it was equally rewarding to experience a variety of rich cultures and generous people. This experience greatly enhanced both my personal life and educational career.