Summer Research Experience for Undergrads

The country of Kenya, located in East Africa has a diverse population of nearly 40 million people comprised of 42 different ethnic groups. Kenyan population is relatively young with nearly
42 % of its population being 0-14 years and has equal proportions of men and
women. Majority (80%) of Kenyans live rurally. Kenya is a low income country
having a GNI of $790 with at least half of its population living on less than
one dollar a day, and a literacy level of approximately 85% (men at a literacy
level of 90% compared to women at 80%) of those who can read and write.

Since the first case of HIV was diagnosed in 1984, Kenya continues to experience a generalized HIV epidemic with 6.3% (1.5 million) of its citizens being HIV-infected. Women bear the
greatest burden, especially younger women aged 20-24 years who are four to five
times more likely to be infected than their male counterparts. The impact of
HIV/AIDS in Kenya has been devastating, for instance approximately 1.2
million children have been orphaned by AIDS. With the increasing antiretroviral treatment availability, there is a growing hope that more people infected with HIV will live longer, healthier, and productive lives. Since the majority of Kenyans live in rural areas, a greater number of people infected
with HIV live in rural areas majority of them being women.

Research agenda:

Our research agenda in Kenya has focused on Health needs of HIV-infected women, HIV transmission risk, health care access, and self-care management over time. Because our studies in Kenya have thus far focused on individual women, we felt that engaging the larger community at this point in our research trajectory was logical to uncover socially embedded structures that are crucial in decreasing HIV risk and curbing the impact of HIV in rural eastern Kenya.

This summer in July 2011, Dr Kako and Dr Stevens, were grateful to secure funding from the UWM Center for International Education (CIE) to implement an oversees research experience for
undergraduate students. This funding helped partially support two undergraduate students to assist us in data collection in Kenya as part of our larger ongoing study funded by UWM Graduate School RGI4 “HIV Transmission Risk, Access to Treatment, and Self Management of Illness Over Time: An In-Depth Longitudinal Study of HIV-Infected Women in 
Kenya.” By having the two students engaged in our study’s data collection phase, we were able to
expand our study capacity to reach community informants that are critical in
informing HIV/AIDS policy not only for rural eastern Kenya but sub-Saharan
Africa. We were able to pilot an exploratory study of the impact of HIV on
women’s lives in Kenya with a specific emphasis on identifying the health
challenges that women living with HIV face in relation to self-care and gender
based violence and to determine their engagement in income generating
activities.

Our plan is that the experiences and insights we gained from engaging undergraduate students in this international research experience prepared us for future involvement of undergraduate students in our future funded research work in Kenya. The overall objective of this international research experience was for undergraduate students to develop beginning knowledge and skills in conducting international research with respect to local cultures. 
 
In line with UWM’s Access to Success goals and initiatives, students who
participate in international research experience are likely to consider
graduate studies that also include international research. In fact, both of our
students who participated in this international work have decided to enroll in
graduate school upon completion of their undergraduate studies.

Source: World CIA Factbook-Kenya,
(2011). https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ke.html