Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Microbicides and HIV

This post is not really about Peace Corps or my application, but it's about some pretty exciting news to me...

There are several studies underway right now that explore microbicides as a way of preventing HIV infection. One study involves a silicone ring containing an antiretroviral drug- Dapivirine ( ). Another study that just announced preliminary results at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna last week involves a topical gel containing the antiretroviral drug Tenofovir. Researchers found that the gel reduced HIV infection by 50% (after a year) and it reduced the risk of genital herpes by 51%. The results have not been published in a peer reviewed journal yet, but the study methodology seems sound to me from what I've read so far (large sample size, double blind and randomized controls). See article here:

Heterosexual intercourse is by far the main mode of HIV transmission in the world, with women at a greater risk than men due to biological and sociological reasons. Biologically women are more susceptible to HIV infection than men. The female genital tract has a greater mucosal surface area than the male genital tract, thus allowing for a greater risk of infection with every exposure. Younger women may also be more biologically vulnerable to infection due to less mature tissue. Gender norms related to masculinity may encourage men to have multiple sexual partners and older men to have sexual relations with much younger women. Violence against women increases their vulnerability to HIV, as forced sex can cause tears and lacerations in the vaginal tract that increase risk of HIV transmission. Additionally, gender-related barriers in access to services can prevent women from learning their HIV status or accessing treatment. Women may face barriers due to their lack of access to and control over resources, child-care responsibilities and limited decision-making power.

Many women do not have the social or economic power necessary to insist on condom use and fidelity, or to abandon partnerships that put them at risk. This area of research is so exciting to me because microbicides would not require a partner's cooperation, they would put the power to protect into women's hands.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis- The Fully Sick Rapper

A third of the world's population is infected with TB bacilli (the microbes that cause TB) according to the WHO. TB drug resistance is also major public health problem. MDR TB especially is all kinds of nastiness. I came across a few videos of a guy (he calls himself the Fully Sick Rapper) who was infected with MDR TB and quarantined in a hospital for 6 months in Australia. During that time he made a bunch of pretty funny videos that also draw attention to the public health problem and describes being on DOT (directly observed therapy). He's also raised money for Doctors without Borders while he was in quarantine, which is pretty cool. His videos have been seen by over a half a million people- a pretty incredible way to draw attention to MDR TB if you ask me.

Here's the link to his first video:

Anyways, if you are really interested in drug resistant TB surveillance I would recommend the WHO report Anti-tuberculosis drug resistance in the world.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 1 Year Anniversary PC application process!

This week marked my 1 year anniversary in the Peace Corps application process! Hard to believe it's been a year already. I also heard back about my appeal last week. While I will still miss my original departure date in September, I'm excited to say that I will not have to wait 8-12 months to leave!!! I need to have another lab test that comes back normal in August/September and if all goes well I should be able to leave sometime after that (maybe October or November).


Friday, June 25, 2010

Medical clearance cont'd...

Well, I’m still stuck trying to get re-cleared medically. The medical hold has been removed and a soul crushing 8-12 month deferral has taken its place. My doctor wrote an appeal for me, but I’m not counting on that working. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the next two weeks with my appeal.

Sometimes it feels a little like:

Friday, May 21, 2010


I'm jumping on the bandwagon! Below are some of my fears regarding Peace Corps service. Also, I'm really bored at work today so I decided to draw them, since afterall a picture is worth a thousand words....

1)They don't mess around- they will F you up!

2)I hope I don't get seriously ill!

3)Total lack of privacy.

*Note: those are eyes, not boobies!

4)Seeing lots of death and disease is going to be tough.

5)Being bored all the time

Friday, May 14, 2010

Two steps forward... one major step back

Well it’s been an eventful couple of weeks! First, I graduated with my MPH [cue pomp & circumstance!], and I’m continuing in my internship position with the board of health for the summer. I’ve been excited-if-not-slightly-anxious waiting for an invite, or rather any word from placement. I’ve been medically cleared for 5 months and legally/dentally cleared as well. I’m just humming along excited about life.

*Here I am with my new red hair:


Then it happens.

A new medical [minor] issue arises. I inform my PC nurse & fax in paperwork. That’s when my plans and dreams are dashed, or at the very least delayed by several months. So, now I am back on a medical hold, will most likely be deferred [AGAIN] for 4-6 months or more and will definitely miss my departure date.


Furthermore, everyone at work knows I just graduated and they've been asking me what I'm going to do next and I've had to play it vague and cool since I didn’t want to tell people until I was invited. I’m really glad now that I didn’t say anything. My lease is up on August 31, and I really don’t know what I’m going to do or where I’m going to live. At least I have a good job and will not become a hobo. I am trying to look on the bright side, but after being in the application process for the past almost 11 months it is hard. Very hard. I am disappointed, but will continue with this process. I hope when a placement officer finally looks at my file to issue an invite they're like "wow, she must really want this".... and I do!

P.S. My next post will not be so gloom and doom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Public Health Week!

Happy Public Health week to everyone out there! Wow I can't believe it's April already!! Lately I've been really busy at work helping plan a conference we hold biannually. The last one we held in 2008 was really great and I'm hoping that this one turns out well too. I get to meet Alice Walker since she's one of our speakers, which I am realllllly excited about.

I've been getting a little peace corps journals obsessed so I've taken a little step back to keep my mind from going crazy in anticipation of an invite or any word from Peace Corps. And by little step back I mean that I don't check this site or the wiki more than once per day. And by once per day I really mean like once and a quick peek, so like one and a half times per day. Okay, okay, it's more like twice a day. The first step is admitting the problem, right?

I can't believe in 3 weeks I will be graduating. I have so much more school work to do still.... it is going to be a whirlwind of papers, tests and presentations. Au revoir until May!

Monday, March 22, 2010

9 months!

It has been 9 months since I first started the application process and 4 months since I received medical clearance. And not a peep out of placement in all this time. No emails, no phone calls, not even a mass email saying "it'll be X weeks until we get to your file... wait in line yada yada" NOTHING. I am aware the process takes time, but goodness it is difficult just waiting for placement to get to my file. I think this is the hardest part of the process by far! I got medically cleared quickly and I highly doubt I'll be that lucky again and get invited quickly. I'm guessing that I will have a few more months of silence since I am not slated to leave until September (which is only 6 months away).

While I wait to hear from Placement I thought I'd talk a little bit about why I want to join Peace Corps. Here are my biggest reasons:

1) I strongly believe in service to others. I first started volunteering when I was about 13. That's pretty young, but I was a very independent child. I used to ride the public bus a few miles downtown and volunteer as an usher for a performance arts theater. I had to wear a very silly bow tie and vest, but I loved it. I enjoyed being immersed in the arts and getting to see performances for free was a major bonus.

2) I enjoy learning about other cultures. PC would give me an opportunity to get fully immersed- to learn the language and work with individuals at their level. PC offers the ability for cultural exchange unlike other service organizations.

3) I want a career in international health. While I have skills in public health education and disease surveillance, I do not have the international public health experience that PC can offer. I'd love to eventually work at the CDC or USAID and many of their staff members are RPCV's.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Legal clearance

More good news... I got the check mark back on mytoolkit this morning so I guess that means I am legally cleared [again].

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two down... one to go!

This morning I was greeted with my favorite email again- the Peace Corps application status update email! I was granted dental clearance! My legal still hasn't cleared yet, but I'm not worried. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas... right???

For a while I couldn't figure out how to get that nifty screen shot of mytoolkit like all those hip bloggers out there have (since I am a bit technologically challenged)... but I finally figured it out today!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

A minor update

Not much going on Peace Corps-wise. I finally got my two cavities filled today though. I sent in my dental packet via fed ex so it should get there by next Tuesday!

I have mainly been working like crazy on the injury data for my practicum with the Board of Health. I have to finish analyzing thousands and thousands of childhood injuries and present to the executive team in February. So yeah.. I am going to be super busy for the next couple of weeks!

It's a good thing since I am just playing the waiting game with Peace corps now. I probably won't hear about my invite until June or July. I spoke to the placement assistant and she said I was nominated for late September and could be invited as late as August! I hope they don't wait that long. Based on PC Wiki it's either Cameroon, Togo or Madagascar. Not getting my hopes up since I told them I'd go anywhere and who knows how accurate the wiki page is.

On a happier note, I was a bridesmaid in my best friend's wedding over the holidays. It was a beautiful wedding and I had a really wonderful time.

Wohoo Lost premiers in 19 days!!!