Year of selection 2015
Institution Queen Mary University of London
Country United Kingdom
Almost 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS. Although free treatment and care is often available, a mere one-third of those eligible make use of it. Dr. Sophie Harman is devoting her research to finding out why. She believes a key factor is the under-addressed issue of everyday social risks associated with accessing care. While the research community has looked at risk factors tied to specific behaviors, to drug pricing or to patent law, no one has yet considered the social impacts that seeking treatment can have on an individual’s daily life. These are related to logistics, procurement, stigma, infrastructure, and local politics. Dr. Harman’s innovative methods will range from stakeholder interviews to storytelling. Through her research, she will produce a film, a graphic story and a book that let people living with HIV/AIDS share their own stories of the challenges and risks they contend with each day and communicate new ideas about social risk relevant to public health.
Her project aims to create a feature length film starring not professional actors, but real women in rural Tanzania dealing with the disease. “Storytelling focusing on individuals, rather than institutions or ideas, has been shown to be effective in communicating the politics of HIV/AIDS,” she says. This also means that the very people who are the subjects of her research will take part in determining its direction and producing the results. Guided by open questions offered by the filmmakers, the participants will take the viewer along to witness the activities of their daily life and the social risks they face in obtaining care. “Whilst this film is about how the everyday demonstrates the wider international politics of disease, the film is about people,” Dr. Harman adds, “human connections, trust and love and the commonplace hurdles ordinary people face.”
She will use this work, as well as a graphic novel and a book, as innovative tools to engage the public on this complex health issue and to inform policy change. They will be screened at global health institutions and distributed to schools and universities, to health practitioners, NGOs and policy-makers around the world. The groups she is targeting are as varied as her methods are interdisciplinary, ensuring that a spectrum of knowledge and experiences will be represented in her research. Through improved understanding of the interaction between science and society and its impact on risk prevention efforts around HIV/AIDS, Dr. Harman aims to help change the global response to this disease for the better
Scientific title: Expired on the Shelf: the Everyday Risk of HIV/AIDS Treatment and Care
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