Today: May 29, 2024

Students advocate for HIV research for incarcerated people

Jack Abbot- General Reporter

Students participating in the SHAWN project advocated for research into HIV for incarcerated persons in the Adanti Student Center. 

The SHAWN project is a research initiative that aims to learn more about the changes to criminalization involving behaviors associated with HIV and AIDS risks. It is a part of the Department of Social Work.  

SHAWN stands for “Stop HIV/AIDS Women’s Network,” and it aims to help underrepresented groups become involved in research. It was also named after activist Shawn Lang, who advocated for LGBTQ+ communities, HIV and AIDS victims and drug users in Connecticut. 

Photo: Jack Abbot

“They impacted the New Haven community in a very positive way, so we wanted to carry on that legacy,” social work major and research assistant Shoshana Mahon, a senior, said. 

The group is researching and advocating for women who were incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’re doing a tabling to sort of disseminate our data that we’ve found,” Mahon said. “Our empirical questions are ‘what happened to women who were incarcerated during COVID who were also at risk of HIV and AIDS?’ and also ‘how can we train undergraduates in research?’” 

Their research also aimed to understand undergraduate students who were affected by incarcerations and how they could be helped.  

Members of the SHAWN project are collaborating with the Social Work Organization, an on-campus group supporting community advocacy, to help make their presence known on campus.  

“We’re interviewing people who were incarcerated who also were affected by HIV or AIDS. Right now, we’re sort of getting their stories and how they were impacted by both,” Mahon said. “They were impacted pretty negatively.” 

One of the things mentioned at the booth was that HIV and AIDS cases increased drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due in part to a lack of resources such as homeless shelters and HIV and AIDS education available. 

“These women who were incarcerated, they really didn’t have enough resources available to them,” Mahon said. “I know the woman personally, who I sat and interviewed for. When she left prison, she was homeless. And so, she was also in an area which was unknown to her. So, she really didn’t have access to those resources.” 

This event was aimed at educating undergraduate students on the effects of incarceration on HIV and AIDS victims and advocating for research on the topic. 

“I learned some interesting statistics about incarcerated people and students on campus who may be affected by that,” marine biology major Julia Deponte, a senior, said. 

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