About Me

Rachel Safeek

First Day in Salvador

I am a recent college graduate from Duke University, graduating with Honors Distinction in Health Policy, Human Rights, and Health Disparities (Global Health)

In addition to being a first-generation American, I come from a multi-cultural background (Filipino-Middle-Eastern-South American-Jewish). My parents, who are immigrants of South America and the Philippines, instilled in a me a sense of hard work as well as a tolerance and appreciation for differences in language and culture.

My diverse upbringing has also afforded me the opportunity to travel to many low and middle income nations. These experiences have been both exciting and eye-opening, as the disparity in wealth, health, and education has always been prominently displayed during my travels.

I originally created this blog when I decided to live and study in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil in the Fall of 2011. During that time, I invested myself in my semester studies and research related to topics covering public health, race, and human rights. Upon my return to the United States in the Spring of 2012, I made the decision to travel back to Salvador in the Summer of 2012 to spearhead a seven month ethnographic field study investigating the intersection of gender disempowerment, racial disparities, violence against women, and HIV transmission among marginalized populations in Brazil.

My project examined the manner and degree to which which gender disempowerment among female sex workers predisposes sex workers to disparities in health, particularly through the transmission of HIV and other STIs. My research aims to target sources of empowerment for women to combat the spread of HIV.

At Duke University, I served as co-director of Know Your Status, a student-run, volunteer organization that aims to reduce stigma around HIV by encouraging students to get tested. Through Know Your Status, I provided free, rapid HIV testing  and counseling to Duke University students as well as to students in the Durham community. I launched my own organizational campaign, #FightStigma, in April 2013 to draw attention to HIV-related stigma and encourage HIV testing.

Through my organization, I designed my own research study investigating risky sexual behaviors among college students. My research was presented at the largest international conference on HIV/AIDS, the 7th annual International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in July of 2013.

Outside of HIV and human rights activism, I enjoy belly dance, world travel, public speaking,  and learning new languages. I am fluent in Portuguese, with a strong command of Spanish and Hebrew, but Latin will always be my favorite language.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

Special thanks to DukeEngage, Duke Medicine, Undergraduate Research Support, and the Duke Global Health Institute for funding my various projects and research presentations.  Also, a very special thank you to my parents who have led by example and raised me to work hard, be open-minded, and always extend myself toward helping others.

Let’s go DUKE!


4 Responses to “About Me”

  1. Gianluca March 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Rachel, this is a great post! We are also thrilled that you have a lot in common with our project. We are producing a documentary, Chapel Hill based (first thing in common: geography!) called “27Months”. It’s about 3 Peace Corps volunteers in 3 countries: Azerbaijan, Liberia and Philippines (second thing in common: your family background). Above all, the theme is exactly the cultural struggle to define what is helpful for the community the volunteers are serving. They start off with a lot of misconceptions, as you write.
    We would really love you check out our project on FB: https://www.facebook.com/27Months?ref=hl

    Tomorrow we will share your post in our page.

    Take care

    -Gianluca Corinaldesi, Co-Producer 27MonthsFilm

    • Rachel Safeek March 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

      Hi Gianluca! Thanks for reaching out! So great to hear about your project, and the manner in which you are documenting the struggles associated with entering into a new community–It’s very important to serve communities we partner with in constructive way. Allowing some time for reflection and truly getting to know the communities we work with will afford us the necessary cultural competency for serving communities that seek our help. I will follow your Facebook page and your twitter today!

      –Rachel Safeek

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