This article examines some of the challenges and opportunities of combining the roles of a health professional and a medical anthropological researcher, based on the author’s experiences combining PhD action research with management of interventions on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Vietnam.
She examines the opportunities and the challenges of these dual roles to resolve three distinct anthropological dilemmas: 1) the friction between insider and outsider perspectives; 2) maintaining distance as opposed to being involved; and 3) non-intervention versus intervention.
In this case, a combination of roles was efficient. Using existing rules, procedures and structures of the program had various important practical, methodological and ethical advantages. The dual role allowed for efficient integration of research findings into improving program performance and for developing realistic and evidence-based policy recommendations that resulted in a new national policy that acknowledged the rights of HIV-positive mothers to receive treatment and support.