From Logan to Hyderabad, a research partnership blooms

Dr Stephen Lamar at work in Hyderabad
Dr Stephen Lamar at work in Hyderabad

An Indian NGO helping people with AIDS and an Griffith Social Work researcher have formed in a unique partnership in Hyderabad.

Australia’s response to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s has become a fireside war story. In other nations, the battle continues, but with many more people needing fewer available resources and confronting entrenched social stigmas.

AIDS in India

Since 2006 Dr Stephen Lamar from the School of Human Services and Social Work at Logan has been working with an NGO in Hydrabad called Jeevanam. The NGO assists people infected with HIV in the city’s slums and outlying villages get access to services and provides education in the management of their condition.

“India is still a very conservative country and many people in the areas in which Jeevanam work are not well educated about how diseases are transmitted, sometimes even the doctors. People who contract AIDS are generally very badly stigmatized,” said Dr Lamar.

The importance of reflection

“Like most community-based health services they are running on passion and while they’re doing great work this can sometimes lead to a lack of reflection of their services because ‘who has the time’?

“In some organisations this lead to a lack of responsiveness to the changing needs of their core clients.

“Many of these people live in abject poverty, so maintaining empathy, compassion and focusing on empowerment is very important. Research and reflection can be the key to maintaining those elements,” he said.

The importance of research

Dr Lamar’s role quickly evolved into what has since become known as the public intellectual; standing a distance from an important service and providing a research base under their activities to assist them evaluate their work and improve their services.

“My involvement with Jeevanam started from a chance meeting with director, Saji Mathai when I was at a conference over there, it was actually the last thing I was looking for, but it’s become my major work.

“My background is in psychology, so not only am I able to research an important issue, but I am also able to give back to that service by doing some professional in-servicing and psychotherapy with the councilors and staff.”

Quid Pro Quo

From the beginning Dr Lamar has been careful to ensure both sides of the research gain a benefit and that his findings reach the ground both here and in India.

“This kind of research and partnership can definitely benefit organizations all over the world, including Australia, but its primary importance is to the people I’m researching, in India.”