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The Role of Social Networks in HIV Testing and Stigmatization

Project: 9
Name: Emmanuel Koku, PhD |
Department: Sociology


Stigma remains one of the foremost barriers to effective HIV prevention, treatment and retention in care. HIV stigma undermines HIV prevention efforts by making it difficult for people to get tested for HIV, reduce their risk of infection, as well as seek and remain in care, if they are living with HIV. As a result, scholarly attention has centered on continuing refinement and conceptualization of stigma. This research seeks to understand how stigma affects a person's decision to test for HIV or adhere to care, and how the influence of stigma depends on an individual's social networks.

The team is currently conducting interviews and surveys with over 300 African immigrants (one of the fastest growing groups of migrants to the United States, and one that is increasingly at risk of HIV infection) in the greater Philadelphia area. The objectives are to: (1) explore how HIV and its stigma is constructed, understood, and assigned in African immigrant communities, (2) document the experiences of stigma within the community, (3) analyze the influence of social networks and interpersonal relationships on experiences of stigma, HIV testing and adherence to care. Through these efforts, the proposed research will contribute to conceptualizations of stigma by linking it to social network theories, particularly social capital.

Gained Experience

Since this is a mixed-methods study, involving interviews, surveys and social network analysis, the Fellow is expected to learn/improve her/his skills in:

  1. Conducting literature searches and writing literature reviews
  2. Qualitative Research Techniques:
    • developing codes from in-depth interviews and focus group sessions
    • synthesizing and analyzing coded data
  3. Quantitative Research Skills
    • data entry and processing in SPSS/STATA
    • bivariate and multivariate statistical models (such as Chi-Square analysis, Correlations, Regressions)
  4. Mixed-methods research - integration data from both qualitative and quantitative approaches
  5. Assist with preparation of scholarly output (manuscripts, conference presentations, posters)


A series of peer-reviewed articles, and ultimately, a book proposal


  • Literature searches and reviews
  • Data processing - coding data from interviews in Deedose
  • Data management in SPSS
  • Data analysis in both SPSS (for quantitative data) and Deedose (for qualitative data)
  • Preparation of manuscripts and powerpoint presentations


Research Lab - Department of Sociology and the Drexel Library

Possibility to Work Post Fellowship

Yes, it is expected that the student will be able to continue working on the project through Fall