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Hector Peguero, an FIU Psychology graduate, was recently awarded a Fulbright Student Research Grant for his research project that sought to identify the subjective beliefs about HIV and related stigmas among sexual minority populations in Mysore, India. The Fulbright grant provides all research funding and living expenses for his year-long research project.

This proposal was an extension of the Psychology Honors Thesis Research he conducted while participating in the departments Global Health Study Abroad program in India. Hector presented this research in the fall and already has a publication under review and one in preparation. Hector was encouraged to apply after taking part in the 2017 India study abroad program with Dr. Dionne Stephens. After multiple essay submissions and a rigorous interview process, Hector was awarded the grant.

His research project focuses on HIV/AIDS risk, perception and stigma among the transgender community. Hijras, an institutionalized third gender in India, are especially vulnerable to these risks due to their involvement in sex work. Research examining HIV/AIDS in India have reported that a significant number of transgender individuals are experiencing high rates of gender-based violence (GBV), and negative sexually transmitted infection (STI) outcomes, HIV-positive, mainly due in a large part to their limited economic opportunities.

While in India, Hector was impacted by the group of transgender women who were taking part in the study. These women were willing to be open and talk to an organization, that they did not know, about their personal experiences and health.

“It filled my heart with so much happiness knowing that we were contributing to creating a safe space for minority populations and giving them hope for a better future without violence and rejection. I know is a very small part of what I want to do in the future, but it was the start of new beginnings” stated Hector.

Hector hopes in the future to bring the data collected from India and compare the information to the same groups here in the United States.