Mia Ryan Porter, a member of the HPTN 083 and HPTN 091 community working groups, is a lay health promoter and outreach worker at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). She is the founder and executive director of Sister to Sister, a support group for trans-binary and non-binary individuals and allies. Mia is also a member of Transgender Ally Collective (TAC), a group of grassroots nonprofits working to provide safe spaces and create more awareness regarding the state of crisis many binary transgender women find themselves in.
What attracted you to a career in HIV prevention research?
Existing within a community that is so heavily impacted by the HIV epidemic attracted me to an HIV prevention research career. As a black woman of transgender experience, my existence is caught between the intersections of having to live and thrive within an identity that places me in a marginalized community (transgender) within another marginalized community (black), facing multiple levels of oppression.
What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy contributing to healthcare enhancement for all demographics. Our site is passionate about how our research can improve or identify HIV prevention methods for the public and specifically for marginalized communities. So, I would say working with an entire team of brilliant investigators, PIs, providers, associates, assistants, and administrative staff that are just as passionate about this work as myself. Simply amazing!
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
I see the positive impact that UTHealth has on the community. This research team came from the first free-standing HIV clinic in the U.S., Thomas Street Health Center. They were in the HIV treatment trenches in the late '90’s and early 2000's when there was not much funding or support for HIV/AIDS research. Our team has a legacy for both treatment and prevention. I am honored to work for and with such a fantastic team.
What has surprised you most about working in HIV prevention research?
I am most surprised by how much stigma still plays a part in how the public perceives research. People’s first response when they see or hear the word research is “lab rat” or “Tuskegee.” People do not realize research is the future. Everything we know as life present day, cell phones, smart cars, and artificial intelligence such as Alexa, have all been advanced by research. However, as it pertains to the public and long-term prevention and treatment methods, medical research is needed to improve healthcare for all. Specifically, the communities we do not have enough data (e.g., transgender men and women).
What inspires you?
I get to wake up and figure out, with a fantastic team, how we will save the world! Literally and figuratively!
What is your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is sweets. Sour candy and chocolates are my favorites.