How do you get a reliable count of people who often are stigmatized, distrust local authorities —including researchers — and are afraid to be identified?

That was the problem facing a team of researchers that included Ria Hearld, associate professor, Department of Health Services Administration in the School of Health Professions, who were working to determine the population size of men who have sex with men, transgender women and female sex workers in six Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States countries.

“Our primary objective was to determine key population size estimates by using different recruitment strategies, demographic methods and statistical triangulation across these methods to produce robust and valid population estimates,” said Henna Budhwani, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy in the School of Public Health, a co-leader of the effort. During the project, the researchers also “assessed the risk profile and current health status of these sub-groups to inform local and regional health policy and advocacy efforts.”

Hearld and the team received the Robert Carr Research Award at the International AIDS Conference July 8, 2020. The biennial award is sponsored by the International Council of AIDS Service Organisations, Human Rights Watch, the International AIDS Society and the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.The work led by Budhwani and John Waters, M.D., with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) certainly was cross-disciplinary, involving partnerships across countries, among academic and community leaders and between faculty and students.

“Dr. John Waters and Julia Hasbun [with CVC] led the project,” Budhwani said. “Here at UAB, Dr. Ria Hearld was our chief demographer; she conducted the statistical analyses and population size estimates for each sub-group across each country.”

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