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Doctoral student receives grant to help bolster South Africa's female condom program

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Daniel Snipes, a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation grant to take part in a research project aiming to strengthen South Africa's female condom program and curtail its rates of HIV infection.

Snipes, who is working on a doctorate in VCU's health psychology program in the College of Humanities and Sciences' Department of Psychology, received a Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide grant, which supports graduate students working on international research projects. The grant is provided in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

As part of the grant, Snipes will travel to Durban, South Africa, over the summer and will work on a research project called "Evaluation of the National South African Female Condom Program: Investigating Factors Associated with Uptake and Sustained Use."

"The goal of the project is to strengthen the South African female condom program by identifying ways by which to increase the acceptability, effectiveness and efficiency of the female condom program," Snipes said. "We will be using data from multiple sources to do this, including a national evaluation in South Africa's nine provinces, a cohort of new female condom users, and interviews with policymakers and program managers involved in the female condom program."

The project is a natural fit for Snipes, whose research focuses on HIV prevention and sexual health.

"While my work tries to focus on men who have sex with men, other opportunities to evaluate HIV prevention in novel ways will provide me with excellent experience," he said.

South Africa's female condom program is a key component of that country's efforts to reduce HIV infections, he said. South Africa has the world's highest rate of HIV, roughly 17 percent, and heterosexual contact is the most common form of transmission.

"This means that women also play a large role in the high rates of HIV infection in South Africa," he said. "Using additional sexual health tools, like female condoms, can help to reduce the burden of HIV in South Africa."

Snipes added that he is excited to use the skills he's gained in the health psychology Ph.D. program to enact real change in another country.

"I look forward to growing professionally and taking this important step into the field of HIV prevention," he said.

 

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