Everyone in my family, and anyone that I can get to listen, now knows the importance of developing a rectal microbicide. 

by Jessyca Dudley, IRMA intern

Prior to joining the IRMA team I was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa. My main responsibility was to engage community members in HIV/AIDS prevention in whatever forum I could conceive of. It was a challenge everyday to work within the
community and attempt to create change against the cultural, social, and outside forces that seemed destined to oppose me. When I returned I had no doubt that I would continue to work to advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS and am happy to be a part of this community, of IRMA.

When I came to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago/IRMA I was still in the midst of culture shock having moved home to Chicago from South Africa only a few weeks earlier. There was a lot to digest and I took pages of notes my first day in the office. New acronyms to be learned, new studies to read, and getting use to being back in an office from 9 to 5, it was all exciting and I knew that I had a lot to look forward to. It was only a short time before I began to find my rhythm and begin telling everyone about the work that I was doing on rectal microbicides.

Everyone in my family, and anyone that I can get to listen, now knows the importance of developing a rectal microbicide. I tell them about the challenges to confronting the institutional, socio-cultural and political stigma around the public health need for rectal microbicide research. I tell them about all the advocates who do so much to bring these advances to their communities. I try to make it relevant to them, try to explain why it is more than just an issue for MSM or women in Africa, why it will bring change to everyone.

Hopefully I succeeded in teaching a few people something that they didn’t know before and hopefully I will continue to have to opportunity to teach others about what I have learned here at IRMA. As I move on to purse my master in public health I have no doubt that I will benefit from my experiences here and will continue to stay connected to this community.

I wish everyone the best! Keep up all the important work of advocating for rectal microbicides!