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2014: year in pictures

28 Dec

As 2014 comes to a close, I wanted to personally wish everyone Happy Holidays. As I look forward to 2015, I wanted to share a few of my fondest memories from this past year.

So, friends, family, twitter followers…Happy New Year–Feliz Ano Novo–Feliz Año Nuevo, and I look forward to seeing you in the new year! I’ll be kicking off my 2015 blog posts with a new series: “Health Insurance 101”, in which I explain the US Health Care System and the types of insurance that exist. See you in 2015!

Magazine Cover

Made it to the Cover of a Lexington Magazine while promoting Lexington’s Dining Out For Life to support HIV/AIDS-related causes and AIDS Volunteers, Inc.

Traveled to Brasil during the 2014 World Cup (May 2014)

Traveled to Brasil during the 2014 World Cup (May 2014)


Began working as a Clinical Research Coordinator for HIV Research Studies at Duke University Medical Center (July 2014)

Turning 23

Turning 23 with my brothers at Shakespeare & Co. (September 2014)


Preparing safe sex kits

Preparing safe sex kits at Soundbar–Lexington, Kentucky

With Poz Magazine Founder and Director of the SERO project, Sean Strub

With Poz Magazine Founder and Director of the SERO project, Sean Strub 


AIDS Walk Lexington, Kentucky–April 2014

Celebrating the Holidays with Family

Celebrating the Holidays with Family

-Rachel Safeek

Follow me on twitter: @RachSafeek


Taking the test. #FightStigma

13 Oct

Today, there are several options available to those seeking HIV/STI testing. HIV tests in the United States can be performed using an oral swab and results can be obtained in 20 minutes! For those who are comfortable with blood, there is even a finger prick option that will yield results in 3-5 minutes (sometimes less time!).

Back in March, I shot a video through the Kentucky Department of Public Health (via the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention) with a colleague of mine simulating an HIV testing and counseling session. For anyone who is interested in knowing how a rapid HIV testing session works, I’ve attached the video below. 

Are you interested in getting tested for HIV? I’ve included below a few items to consider before scheduling your appointment.

1. Find a testing location: Use the application for locating free HIV testing sites in your area.

While unwarranted, there is a very real social stigma surrounding HIV and HIV testing.  Oftentimes, stigma surrounding sexual health serves as a deterrent for many seeking testing. This stigma often leads many to seek HIV testing/treatment in cities where they are not known by the local community, in order to avoid recognition from a family member or colleague.  #FightStigma

2. Determine the type of test you’d like to take: Ask someone from the testing site what types of tests that are available. For those seeking free, rapid HIV testing who prefer using an oral swab, ask for the Oraquick Rapid HIV test.

Clearview Advance HIV test is another rapid test available that uses a drop of blood from a finger prick.

3. Be aware of the 3-month window period: Most rapid HIV tests are antibody tests. Antibodies are produced by your body in response to the presence of a foreign pathogen. If you are infected with HIV, it can take anywhere from 1-3 months for HIV antibodies to develop in your system. Therefore, any risk for HIV that may have occured up to three months prior to your test date may not be detected on your HIV test. If you are schedule a test within your three-month window period (it’s been less than three months since you believed you were potentially exposed to HIV), it is recommended that you schedule a follow-up appointment with your provide to confirm your test results. If you are in the “window period”, you should attempt to reduce your risk for HIV as much as possible, including engaging in sex with a protective barrier, refraining from sharing any type of needles, or abstaining from sexual activity altogether. Each time you engage in a new behavior that places you at risk for infection, you re-set your “window period” start date.

As always, feel free to email me with any questions:


–Rachel Safeek

Tweet at me @RachSafeek 

Harmful Ally-Ship

9 Mar

For a more tweet-friendly version of this article, you can read this article on storify: “Being and Ally & Avoiding the White Savior Complex”

Ally-ship, or the notion that we can support/advocate for the rights and needs of groups for which we are not a part, is not without its flaws. The actions undertaken by allies can be damaging to the communities with whom allies advocate on behalf of and ultimately rendered unwanted. For example, using one’s ally-ship with a minority group for purposes of self-promotion or gathering public praise.

Allies of minority groups exercise certain privileges that are not available to the groups they are allied with. When members of minority/oppressed groups call out allies for being insensitive, overshadowing minority groups, or overlooking certain things because of their privilege, allies can oftentimes become offended and get defensive…

An example of an ally becoming defensive instead of using criticism as a learning opportunity: Piers Morgan’s response to the critiques of Janet Mock and the transgender community:

Janet Mock, a prominent activist for transgender rights, was absolutely correct in saying that “being offensive and being kind are not mutually exclusive things…we can have great intentions…but also be ignorant”.

It’s important for allies—myself included– to bear in mind that we are not the focal point of the issue. Getting defensive when we are called out on our privilege by the group we are advocating for, instead of listening and trying to understand what our privilege has unintentionally caused us to overlook, can be damaging to the groups we are allied with. As allies, we should remain open-minded to the ways in which certain privileges we may hold cause us to overlook the potentially harmful repercussions of our actions. We should prioritize furthering the causes of the groups we are committed to advocating on behalf of, instead of dismissing critiques and diverting attention to our own defensiveness. I do understand the frustration expressed by minority groups when allies “miss the point” and get defensive when called out over it, instead of listening–it’s frustrating when the groups advocating on your behalf don’t even want to hear you out.

On the flip side, minority groups should remember that having allies with certain privileges can, in fact, be helpful (and powerful) to their cause, as allies can use their privileges to raise awareness around issues in ways that oppressed groups cannot. It’s a matter of ensuring that awareness is raised by those with privilege in a manner that does not also cause harm to the groups they are allied with. Primarily, allies should seek to act among those who share their same type of privileges, rather than serving as “privileged representatives” among the groups they advocate on behalf of. The focus should be placed on advancing the voices of those in oppressed positions, not the voices of those with privilege.

Email me:

Twitter: @RachSafeek

#FightStigma Campaign

25 Jan

#FightStigma is an anti-stigma campaign that was launched by the Duke University group, Know Your Status, to encourage HIV testing and combat stigma around HIV.

Due to an expressed interest in the #FightStigma t-shirts from the Twitter community, we are working on having more t-shirts made for anyone who is interested in participating in the campaign. Follow the #FightStigma campaign on Twitter for more information about HIV testing, HIV facts, and updates on #FigthStigma t-shirts.

FightStigma Campaign

Rachel Safeek and Jasmine Cross, KYS Co-Directors "Fight Stigma" image

Rachel Safeek and Jasmine Cross, 2012-2013 KYS Co-Directors “Fight Stigma” image

Free HIV Testing at Duke every Monday!

Free HIV Testing at Duke every Monday!

Rachel and Victoria of #FightStigma Campaign

Rachel and Victoria of #FightStigma Campaign

Jasmine and Rachel, KYS Co-Directors 2012-2013

Jasmine and Rachel, KYS Co-Directors 2012-2013


Daniel and Li of the #FightStigma Campaign, 2013-2014 Co-Directors of Know Your Status

Daniel and Li of the #FightStigma Campaign, 2013-2014 Co-Directors of Know Your Status

"Fight Stigma" Campaign

“Fight Stigma” Campaign

#FightStigma would like to thank Shayan Asadi for his amazing photography skills


Forever Duke (Welcome #Duke2018)

13 Dec

Yesterday, 797 early decision applicants were notified of their acceptances to the Duke University Class of 2018.

As a recent graduate of Duke and volunteer interviewer for undergraduate admission, I have the opportunity to regularly talk about my Duke experiences with prospective students. The impact that Duke has made on my life and career goals is ineffable, and with each conversation I have about Duke, I grow even more nostalgic. And so, I dedicate this post to my alma mater, the greatest place on earth.

A very warm welcome to the Class of 2018, the new members of the Duke community! Remain open-minded and embrace all of the new opportunities that Duke has to offer. You are in for the best four years of your life. #ForeverDuke

Duke Graduation 2013

Standing Inside the Duke Chapel–Duke Graduation (May 2013)

Duke 2013 Graduation

Duke 2013 Graduation

Duke Chapel

In front of Duke Chapel with Brynne (December 2011)

Duke Chapel Homecoming Weekend

Posing in front of Duke chapel during homecoming weekend #ForeverDuke

Forever Duke

Best friend of four years #Pegram #ForeverDuke

–Rachel Safeek

Birthday in Brasilll!!

11 Sep

I turned 20 in Brasil on September 8th! My host family (and friends) threw me a surprise birthday party. Pictures below:

O-week, Homestay, e Dia Da Independência

7 Sep

Felicidades Independência! Hoje e dia da independicia no Brasil.

I have now been in Brasil for almost a week, and it has easily become one of my favorite places in the world, since the moment I took my first steps off the plane in Rio de Janeiro.

For the first few days of the program, my classmates and I stayed in a convent, Casa Betânia, in Itapuã for a five-day orientation. While at Casa Betânia, all 21 students got to know the Academic Director, Damiana, as well as each other, while delving into studies concerning the Brazilian health care system and public health methodology.

On the third night, we went together as a group to Pelourinho, perhaps the most popular touristic site in Salvador, to attend a performance of Balé Folclórico da Bahia, a show featuring an enriching display of Brazilian dance and culture.  We saw capoeira (a Brazilian dance/martial art created by the slaves), Samba de Roda, as well as portrayal of Candomblé  culture. Not only was the show very entertaining, many of us left inspired to try Brazilian Capoeira (haven’t done so yet).

On Monday, all the students were divided into groups and “dropped-off” in a different location in Salvador where they had to find their way around, communicating in very limited Portuguese, and then get back to the convent in time for lunch. My group and I visited Feira de São Joaquim, a farmer’s market about 15-20 minutes away from Pelhourinho.

Last night, we finally met our host families. I live in Federação (centro de Cidade Salvador) with a mother and daughter (Raimunda e Monica). Raimunda is an administrative assistant at UFBA (Universidade Federal da Bahia), while Monica also works at UFBA in the Sociology department. I also live 30 seconds away from another member of my program. Our host families are best friends, and we spent the whole day walking throughout Salvador. We went together to the Fiesta Independencia in Campo Grande (a nearby neighborhood) and then to visit the Palacete das Artes (Museum of Art) with one of the most popular restaraunts in Salvador, Solar Café, a very upscale spot.

After a long day of walking around Salvador, we finally got back to our home in Federação, where my host sister, Monica, and her best friend, Isabella introduced me to Samba (another Brazilian dance I really wanted to learn). Isabella explained to me that there are three types of Brazilian music popular in Bahia: (1) Samba de Roda, (2) Pagode: Saiddy da Bamba, Black Style and  Prangolé, and (3) Partido. She and Monica then taught me the basic movements of each style.

Since I’ve only just begun my stay here in Salvador, most of the emphasis has been upon getting assimilated with the culture and the language. We start classes next Monday, and that’s when the real work will begin. Until then, I want to continue to learn as much about Brazilian culture and the language as possible.

I’m getting ready to join my group to go to Rio Vermelho to listen to a Brazilian singer, but I will post later on more about my stay in Brazil, specifically the major differences I’ve noticed between Brazilian culture and the way of life in the States.

Also, I’m turning 20 tomorrow.