#PRIDE in the Work: A CSSW Research Team reflects on #PRIDEMonth
June 28, 2018
In celebration of #PRIDEMonth, a team of researchers at the Columbia University School of Social Work’s Social Intervention Group weighed in on how #PRIDE is reflected in their day to day research.
Dr. Elwin Wu, Gulnara Zhakupova, and Yong Gun “YG” Lee, all help manage and oversee a project called “UNI” based out of Columbia’s Global Health Research Center in Central Asia.
UNI is a social network-based intervention in Kazakhstan designed to engage stigmatized communities through social networks, in particular men who have sex with men. Kazakhstan is one of the nine countries in the world that saw a greater than 25% increase in HIV incidence in the first decade of this century. The burden of the epidemic has fallen disproportionately on vulnerable populations including injection drug users and men who have sex with men.
The networks UNI helps create allow men to share and promote health within their personal social networks. The men themselves are experts in how and from whom to find safe, compassionate care, and will collaboratively explore ways of sharing their knowledge with others. Among other activities, UNI facilitates a discussion group for these stigmatized men.
One group participant reported that “I learned important information about my own rights when I am walking on the street or meeting my friends at a private place that I never knew before.”
In addition to UNI’s mission and research activities, PRIDE is well reflected in the spaces that the project occupies. By incorporating the colors of PRIDE in its field offices, UNI has created an environment that is inviting and inclusive. Here, in the offices, UNI has hosted several community gatherings such as movie nights and discussion clubs. The Rainbow Sofa, the signature furniture piece that takes center stage in all UNI field offices, was introduced by UNI’s very own Project Coordinator, Vitaliy Vinogradov, and enjoyed by everyone.