“It’s really exciting that we get to share what our students are working on (with) the community. It’s nice to be able to highlight all the public health work that’s happening here in Rhode Island,” said Melissa Clark, associate dean for education, professor of health services, policy and practice and professor of obstetrics and gynecology. “We’re really proud of our students, and it’s great that we can finally be back in person presenting our work.”

The Herald spoke with four participants about their experiences presenting their posters.

On her poster, Rebecca Kirby ’22 examined resistance to the antimalarial drug artemisinin.

Using discarded samples from a previous national survey, the research team studied dried blood spot data to characterize mutations in resistance to the drug and determine the prevalence of malaria parasites in Rwanda, she said.

“This is really important for global health because malaria has a really significant burden. It caused over 600,000 deaths last year,” Kirby explained. “Mutations have been shown to cause resistance against artemisinin combination therapies, which is the current mainstay against malaria. If this were to spread into Africa, that could threaten decades of public health gains.”

Kara Rofé GS looked at the pre-exposure usage of prophylaxis — an antiviral medication that can preemptively reduce the risk of contracting HIV —  in transgender and gender-nonconforming adults in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Transgender and gender-nonconforming people are disproportionately impacted by HIV, but not enough of them are taking PrEP,” Rofé said. “I want to find out why they aren’t taking PrEP and what subgroup of people are taking PrEP.”

Using a survey of 600 transgender and gender-nonconforming people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, researchers found that those who did not access HIV prevention services, those who engaged in condomless sex and those who lacked a history of STIs did not commonly use PrEP, Rofé said.

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