A new research project at PHS has been awarded a 2009 Planning Grant in the amount of $15,000 from the Program in Health Disparities Research also at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The study, titled "Opening Pandora's Box: Somali Women, Sexuality, and HIV/STD Prevention," will be the first to examine HIV-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of Somali women of all sexual orientations with the ultimate goal of meeting the critical need to reduce HIV and STD transmission among African-born Americans in Minnesota (and the US) as African-born Americans have the highest HIV/AIDS rates of any ethnic group.
Bean Robinson, PhD, is the principal investigator on the project. Through an NIH-funded project Partners in Research she was matched with community scholar* Fatima Jama. Robinson and Jama met for breakfast to get to know each other and a research project was born. On both personal and professional levels, the two women really hit it off. Robinson said, "We just mesh. Our lives have many points of intersection including religion, advocacy, and social interests and we really like working together." As ideas for the research project developed Amira Ahmed was added to the research team as the community agency partner**. After the match was complete, representatives from the Partners in Research project helped the group prepare to work together and apply for the planning grant from the Program in Health Disparities Research. Robinson said, "The three of us are a dynamic team. We complement each other and represent a range of cultural experiences that have given us a breadth of expertise. It seemed like a natural step to collaborate on research that will help to meet the critical need for sexual health education and prevention for the large communities of Somali women in Minnesota."
Interviews will be conducted in either English or Somali by the project's bilingual Somali-raised community partners who will recruit participants from Somali gathering places, mosques, and gay/lesbian clubs, and bars. These Somali community partners represent heterosexual and gay/ lesbian/bisexual identities and have wide contacts including ones within the straight and hidden gay Somali communities.
The information gathered from this study will be used to secure additional funding to further study the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to HIV/STD transmission and prevention within the Somali community. Ultimately the group will translate this knowledge to develop the first HIV counseling and testing intervention for Somali women.
In addition to research that Robinson, Jama, and Ahmed will be conducting on HIV and STDs, information about how they conducted their research will be communicated back to the larger Partners in Research study. The NIH-funded project is a collaboration between West Side Community Health Services, Program in Health Disparities Research, and the School of Public Health. The goal of this project is to create a model for community-based participatory action research (CBPAR), and by evaluating the current Health Disparities partnerships the group hopes to improve the facilitation of community research projects and the education for both faculty and community researchers. The NIH CBPAR project will be completed in June 2010.
Both Ahmed and Jama work for Midwest Community Development Inc. Ahmed is the founder and executive director and Jama is a program manager.
*Community scholars are individuals who have applied to work on research in their community and were hired by the "Partners in Research" grant.
**Community agency partners are individuals in leadership positions in community organizations acting within the subject community. These individuals must have the support of the organization for research efforts.
PHOTO: Fatima Jama, Bean Robinson, Amira Ahmed
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