Veena Pillai, MBBS

Current position: Global Health Fellow, Yale School of Medicine


GHES LMIC Fellow 2015-2016

Home Institution: University of Malaya
US Institution: Yale University

Project Title: Health needs assessment in a woman's prison in Kuala Lumpur, sex work, HIV, and substance abuse.

Veena is currently a global health fellow at the Yale School of Medicine working on research in the areas of prison health, refugee health and disaster medicine

Research with incarcerated persons living with HIV (PLWH) in Malaysia has generated important new insights about the health needs of male prisoners and the efficacy of interventions to improve their adherence to methadone maintenance therapy. To date, however, few studies have assessed disease burden or health needs of female prison inmates in Malaysia, who are likely to have different health needs and respond differently to interventions. A comprehensive health needs assessment is needed to determine the health services that are most appropriate for this population.

In collaboration with the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA) at the University of Malaya, I conducted a mixed method study to (1) describe prevalence and correlates of sexually transmitted infections, mental illness, substance use disorders, and intimate partner violence among women incarcerated in a large Malaysian prison; and (2). In phase 1, I recruited a random sample of female prisoners and use standardized diagnostic tests and a structured questionnaire to collect data about disease prevalence and risk behaviors. In phase 2, I used maximum variation sampling to recruit a subset (~30-45 participants) who were invited to participate in semi-structured voice-recorded interviews concerning their perceptions and expectations of health services that were analyzed using a grounded-theory approach. During Phase 2 I also included a feasibility assessment in the form of focus group discussions involving stakeholders, for an evidence based intervention (EBI) that was chosen based on the results of the Phase 1 study.