University of Washington Global Health Pathway medical student Naomi Nkinsi has been awarded a new grant to fund research on the effect of food insecurity on antiretroviral therapy and HIV outcomes in South Africa. The $4000 Grant for Emerging Researchers/Clinicians Mentorship (G.E.R.M.) was awarded by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Foundation.

“Newly diagnosed HIV patients who lack finances to purchase food can find their situation further compounded by a competing need to pay for their medical treatment,” said Nkinsi, “I want to dive further into this field to collect data to better understand the issue and how it can impact HIV prevention.”

Nkinsi will travel to Durban, South Africa in June to begin the work. She says the initial stages of the project, guided by her faculty mentor Paul Drain, have given her a much greater understanding of the barrier that food insecurity plays in accessing care. 

“My interest is in researching food insecurity and its impact on overall health, specifically on the immune system,” Nkinsi said. “Prior to medical school I volunteered at an organization called the Global Child Nutrition Foundation and learned about the linkages between food insecurity and disease.”   

“I wanted to specifically work with adults who have been recently diagnosed because I think it presents an interesting opportunity to both collect data on peoples’ food status when they were infected, and provide interventions as they begin treatment,” Nkinsi shared. “Ideally, programming to reduce food insecurity in those with HIV/AIDS would be provided regardless of when they were diagnosed. I hope this study can provide more evidence to help result in better health outcomes.”

G.E.R.M. was created with the intention of providing medical students with clinical training and medical education. Under the tutelage of a mentor, students receive the opportunity to conduct research projects on infectious disease-related topics for up to one year.