Combining science with social good

Females Rising through Education, Support, and Health (FRESH) is a longitudinal study to identify and analyze the immune response immediately after HIV diagnosis. Combining science with social good, participants in the FRESH project receive twice-weekly job and life-skills training, as well as access to PrEP, during their nine-month participation in the study.

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Our FRESH program is based in Umlazi Township, where 66% of women will contract HIV by age 23, in part because of the extreme poverty and high unemployment rates in the region. Each year, FRESH recruits women who are HIV-negative and between the ages of 18-23, to participate in a nine-month program that provides HIV testing, life and job skills training, and a strong empowerment program in twice-weekly, three-hour sessions. Participants are also provided with HIV prevention medication, or PrEP, and HIV treatment should they be diagnosed with HIV.

Over 80% of FRESH graduates are employed, in school, or in an internship within a year of graduation. On the scientific side, the weekly samples they donate provide vital scientific insight into the earliest stages of HIV infection and the immune response. Working closely with the community and participants, the Ragon Institute is committed to the continuous development of this program to combine scientific research with social good in the areas with the greatest need.

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The Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard brings together scientists and engineers from diverse fields to better understand the immune system and support human health.

Clinical Research

Clinical research provides valuable insight in the interactions of the immune system and various pathogens through the use of clinical samples such as blood draws and mucus swabs.