In my quest to study HIV/AIDS as a theme for my doctoral project, I have enlisted the help of a local nursing expert in the area of infectious disease. The expert is an amazing woman. She came to one of our classes in women's health to discuss the impact of AIDS in the community. I was impressed...
Initially, my interest was to study the paucity of data regarding the relationship between knowledge, perception of risk and high risk sexual behavior of African American men aged 27-50 who seek casual sexual encounters with women using social networking sites on the Internet.
In English: I want to know what black men know about catching a sexually transmitted disease, whether or not they think they are at risk for catching a sexually transmitted disease and how that information affects their sexual practices.
When I broached my nursing profs with the research idea I developed, they gave me discouraging news. How would I get the IRB to approve my research using the Internet? There are no doctorally prepared nursing faculty who study Infectious Disease...Who would be on my committee? Maybe I should change my foci...NOT! So, I wrote a letter to the local expert begging her to be on my research committee and to mentor me so that when I am done with the fellowship, I too can be an nurse expert in the area of infectious disease. I could have fainted when she said yes!
The first time we met, she was feeling me out to see how serious I was about studying HIV and what I already know about the population. I had to admit that I knew nothing and that I was hoping that she would put me in the right position to get the exposure I need to develop a good study.
She basically told me that I had a group of subjects sitting right in my lap...My friends! African American women who are my age are the fastest growing number of newly diagnosed HIV in the country...but I wanna study men!!! She gave me a 10 article reading assignment on HIV/AIDS among African American women and scheduled a meeting to discuss what I have learned.
I read the articles and didn't learn anything that I didn't already know. But she posed some questions that made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Do I think that I am at risk for contracting HIV?
Why don't I think I can contract it?
I have children, which proves that I have unprotected sex...that clearly makes me at risk. And what makes me think I should trust my partner?
Now she did not come right out and ask in that order, we had conversation in between. It really made me think:
'Why do we trust who we trust?'
'Why are African Americans the highest group? What does our population need to get the wake-up call?'
'Is the little 15 minute sexual encounter worth risking my life over?'
'With the numbers growing so fast, why don't we know more people who have had a close call...a diagnosis...or even died of AIDS?'
I have donated blood, but I have never had an official AIDS test. I could be HIV positive!
Ugh, now I am thinking about changing my research question...but I won't because there is something about my discomfort that intrigues me! I want to do a study that is interesting but will also help my community. This is hitting too close to home. This isn't supposed to be about me...but I realized that whatever I study is about me!