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UNC Alumna Amy Lee Tackles STI Prevention with UNC Project-China

November 7, 2017
Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases

Amy Lee recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has traveled to Guangzhou, China, for a research coordinator position with UNC Project-China. In this post, she shares a reflection on her first week on the job.

I have never stepped into a busier office than I did on my first day of work in Guangzhou. Instead of a formal introduction to the team members, they immediately distributed presentation slides of the upcoming 2017 World Health Organization’s Expert Consultation on Advancing Implementation Research on Syphilis, HIV, and Hepatitis in Asia conference for me to translate. Filled with medical terminologies, the whole team was under constant debate seeking the correct translations. There is the saying that conflicts are necessary for the growth of healthy relationships – I can only agree; within the first few chaotic days, I have already become friends with my fellow teammates. It was also during the translation when I learned the startling statistic – 1 in 12 individuals living in Asia has a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The sea of commuters I am constantly surrounded by in the bustling metro station now has a heightened sense of relevance to me.

My sixth day in China and fifth day working at UNC Project-China also coincided with the day when I finally heard the full context behind the presentation slides our team tirelessly translated. During the conference, I was introduced to different countries’ approaches toward the 90-90-90 targets. This means that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their status, receive antiretroviral therapy and maintain viral suppression.

Within these few days, issues surrounding cohorts that are often overlooked by the mass media captivated my attention. Over breakfast with Myron Cohen, director of UNC’s Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases, I discussed a peer-driven solution to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) delivery and STI control presented, which I believe to be the solution to improve community involvement and increase adherence. Dr. Cohen was quick to point out the intricacies of PrEP – that lack of an educational component could be a critical obstacle to adherence – a fact my enthusiasm for a possible solution caused me to overlook.

The degree of difficulty of STI prevention, treatment and care is alarming, but the complexity of the issue motivates me to work toward finding a solution, and I look forward to what the next year has in store for me!

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