2012 CQSHM Dissertation Fellows

Sarah Beckham

Social and Behavioral Interventions
Department of International Health
PhD Candidate

Project Title: Sex Work, Motherhood, and HIV in Iringa, Tanzania: Roles, Responsibilities, and Risks

Summary: The same behaviors that place female sex workers (FSWs) at risk for HIV and STI can also place them at risk for unwanted pregnancy, but there is little research on what happens when sex workers experience pregnancy and bear children. Many sex workers begin sex work as mothers or because they are mothers, while others specifically seek pregnancy, often as a way to leave sex work. Thus, many if not most FSWs inhabit roles in work and home life, sex worker and mother.  This project will explore how this affects women’s livelihoods and subsequent HIV risks.  FSWs, globally and in sub-Saharan Africa, have social needs and responsibilities including those related to motherhood, which go beyond STI and HIV testing and treatment, or even contraceptive services. Does fulfilling these needs compete with or enhance reduction in HIV-risk behaviors, or both? If a woman has children to provide for, is she more likely to accept riskier sexual encounters, so she can feed her children?

Using mainly qualitative methods, including life history interviews, Sarah hopes to illuminate the lives of sex workers in Iringa, Tanzania, approaching their daily struggles with HIV risk from a different side, from their lives as mothers, primary childcare providers, and breadwinners.  If programs approach FSWs more broadly, recognizing and addressing their roles outside of work, can they more effectively prevent HIV?  The project begins to answer these important questions by recasting FSWs as women, human beings, with multiple roles and identities, living nuanced lives, struggling for respectability and personhood.

Elizabeth Rhoades

Department of Health, Behavior and Society
PhD Candidate

Project Title: Perceptions of Drought Among Hopi Tribal Members

Summary: This study is the first to document perceptions of drought and climate-related public health impacts among an American Indian population in the Southwest. Using in-depth interviews, participant observations, site visits, and document analysis, this research explores how long-term drought has impacted the Hopi Tribe of Northern Arizona. Regional drought has placed stress on this resilient yet resource-limited community, contributing to the decline of subsistence gardening of fruits and vegetables as well as increasing dust levels, which have exacerbated respiratory health problems in the area. In addition to documenting impacts, this research focuses on solutions—both short-term coping strategies and long-term adaptation strategies—identified by participants, whose long history in the region, close association with the land, and generational knowledge give them special insight into ecological change.