By Tiffany Molina
After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from The Ohio State University, Angel Algarin had plans to become a veterinarian. He would soon find out that he had to steer himself in another direction. Algarin wanted to study HIV/AIDS, and he knew that he had to find a way to follow this passion. Soon after, he applied for the master’s degree program in public health at the University of Kentucky.
“I knew UK was the place for me,” Algarin said. “The staff was so welcoming, and I felt like they wanted me here. Scott McIntosh contacted me after my campus visit, and I was awarded a Lyman T. Johnson Fellowship. This was a huge honor for me, and I just knew that I would follow my passion on this campus.”
Algarin found and followed his passion at UK. He credits assistant professor April Young of the College of Public Health for mentoring him and fostering his passion for the field.
“Methods in public health and behaviors, working with LGBTQ men, and finding quantitative data to inform practitioners about HIV/AIDS are some of the reasons why I wanted to intern in a place that needed my help, like the Dominican Republic,” Algarin said.
Armed with a fluency in Spanish from his Puerto Rican heritage and his undergraduate degree, Algarin’s passion for global health and helping Spanish-speaking countries made him a great candidate for the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in the Dominican Republic.
During his summer in the Dominican Republic, which according to UNAIDS has an AIDS prevalence of 1 percent compared to the U.S. prevalence of 0.3 percent, Algarin was able to work in updating the National Annual HIV Estimation Reports, running data analysis and working with the Center of Integral Orientation and Investigation (NGO COIN), updating protocols for a project focusing on transgender women and their HIV risk.
Algarin said that among his favorite parts of the experience was the Inversion Conference. At the conference, he was able to use a software created at the University of California-Berkeley “to build projections of how the HIV epidemic is going to increase or decrease on a yearly basis.” Algarin said it’s an algorithm that can estimate what the HIV incidence will be, based on how much money is allocated to different programs such as condom distribution or education programs.
Aside from conducting a vast amount of research, Algarin had the opportunity to experience the beauty and tourism of the Dominican Republic.
“It’s important that you get a true experience when you’re in another country. Don’t just be a tourist,” Algarin said. “Always keep the population in mind and keep that passion driving you. Because if you let success or ambition get the best of you, you won’t be able to do the impactful work you’re dreaming of.”