Health sociologist studies HIV prevention policy

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Health sociologist studies HIV prevention policy

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Published on 27 October 2014

A former administrator of HIV prevention and family planning programs in the United States is studying a PhD at USC to help inform decision-making processes in both countries.

Jennie Haarsager-Lieske, of Peregian Springs, said her health sociology research aimed to gauge the importance of including communities directly affected by health policies in government decision-making.

Ms Haarsager-Lieske moved to the Sunshine Coast in 2012 with her husband Dr Scott Lieske, now a CRN Research Fellow at USC, and their two children. The pair is based at USC’s Sustainability Research Centre.

She recently conducted field work in the US where the HIV Prevention Community Planning Program has included marginalised and vulnerable groups in helping prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“While HIV prevention in the United States is my case study, this research into inclusion in public policy and practice will also have interesting implications in other areas of health and the environment, such as climate change,” she said.

“I’m studying how decision-making works. Why do decision-makers include vulnerable populations? Does involving gay communities in policies about interventions result in better programs and reduced infection rates?”

Ms Haarsager-Lieske said there had been a general shift towards inclusion in public health policies regarding HIV prevention in the US since the early 1990s.

“I understand the epidemic in the US has been very different to Australia,” she said. “Australia seems to have been more progressive than the US in its responses in some cases, such as with needle exchanges.”

Ms Haarsager-Lieske received the US National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association’s Allan Rosenfield Award in 2010 for her work in integrating HIV services for gay men into family planning clinics.

From 2001 to 2004 she was the HIV Prevention Coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Health and the Health Department Co-Chair of the HIV Prevention Community Planning process.

She received an Australian Postgraduate Award to study at USC. Her principal supervisor is Senior Lecturer in Sustainability Advocacy Dr Dana Thomsen.

— Julie Schomberg

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