AIDS Project Los Angeles
Gap Year Internship in Social and Behavioral Research

AIDS Project Los Angeles: A Unique Research Program

APLA’s Community-Based Research program is a unique setting for a research internship: Our program is an active collaboration between a community-based organization and academic researchers from California State University, Dominguez Hills, UCLA, the RAND Corporation, and Harvard University. We are centrally located on Wilshire Boulevard, just south of Hollywood, and easily accessible by subway and bus. From Union Station in Downtown L.A., it’s a short subway ride to our offices at 3550 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 300, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

Our Research

The Community-Based Research program focuses on examining social and psychological factors that influence the health and health behaviors of people living with HIV and populations at high risk of HIV infection. Our research focuses particularly on the experiences of HIV-positive people of color and young Black and Latino gay and bisexual men. Study findings are used to develop new services, improve existing ones, and highlight trends in the field. Topics explored in our research include: sexual risk behavior; interpersonal communication about sexuality; HIV/AIDS treatment education; substance use; social and cultural factors shaping HIV risk for gay men of color; health disparities; and social stigma and discrimination. For more information about Community-Based Research at APLA, please visit our overview page.

The Internship Experience

This is an unpaid internship that would involve working on multiple APLA research projects. Interns may participate in scheduling or conducting interviews, qualitative data analysis, collaborative team meetings, entering survey data, searching research literature, and assisting with preparation of grant proposals, as well as materials for presentation and publication. Other activities might involve screening participants or doing outreach at community venues, including nighttime outreach at gay-identified bars and clubs. Interns in our program are active team members involved in many aspects of the research projects, and expected to contribute independently and creatively to the research process. Self-motivated interns typically develop many new skills during the program, along with a hands-on understanding of community-based research.

Candidates for Internship

This is a good opportunity for someone who is considering a career in research or medicine, or who is interested in sociological and psychological perspectives on HIV and the experiences of people living with HIV or Black and Latino young gay and bisexual men. An ideal candidate would have strong writing skills, as well as some knowledge of research methods. Equally important is experience in or eagerness to learn about recruitment methods, writing about qualitative research findings, qualitative analysis procedures, and guidelines to protect study respondents’ confidentiality and welfare. We particularly encourage candidates who have experience with diverse populations, such as ethnic minority, HIV-positive, or LGBT individuals.

Gap Year Internship

APLA’s gap year research internship is a yearlong program for students who have completed a BA or BS and are considering graduate studies leading to a PhD or MD. Gap year interns work 24-32 hours per week on a range of different projects over the course of their year at APLA. They obtain extensive training in research planning, recruitment, interviewing, analysis, and writing, while taking on progressively more challenging responsibilities over the course of the year. Many of our gap year interns have chosen this internship to help them explore whether a career in research is right for them, while adding a unique set of experiences to their graduate school applications.

Three-Month Internship

We also accept a limited number of applicants for three-month fall, spring, and summer internships, designed for students who are currently in school. Fall and spring three-month internships require a minimum commitment of 15 hours per week, while summer internships are 40 hours per week.

Comments from Current and Former Interns

“The AIDS Project Los Angeles gap year internship is an incredible opportunity to get hands-on exposure to the field before pursuing higher education in medicine, public health, psychology, or sociology. There are several ongoing research projects I work on that are unique and in different stages of completion, which gives me the chance to tackle diverse research challenges and goals. As an integral part of the research team, I feel that my contributions are meaningful and impactful, and I am given the independence to practice and refine my own skills of writing and analyzing scientific information. Additionally, my supervisors are great mentors and teachers who are invested in my growth and do so much to provide me an incredible educational experience. Most importantly, working with HIV care and prevention has shown me the important intersection between medicine, society, and culture. Having this broader perspective on what factors go into the health of a person has undoubtedly better prepared me for medical school and a career in medicine.”
—Mansur Ghani, Yale University, Current CBR Research Intern

“When I first applied to the APLA research internship program, I was unsure whether I would enjoy working in research. Yet I knew that I was interested in the social impacts and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and felt that to truly understand these issues I would need to learn about the process of conducting research in this field. I applied for the internship on the notion that, while I thought I would not ultimately work in research, the experience would be valuable to me. However, as I finish my time in the program, I find myself in a place I had never expected: I love doing research. This internship gave me a rare opportunity: I felt valued as an intern (I never went on coffee runs and never spent my days standing mindlessly at the copying machine), I felt a part of a warm and welcoming team, I began to understand how much hard work goes into research and publishing, and I was challenged intellectually by my supervisors to achieve more than I expected of myself. I cannot overstate how appreciative and fortunate I feel about my experience here. I grew intellectually, professionally and personally—everything one would want from an internship. Today I feel confident in my decision to pursue a career in the HIV/AIDS field, and that assuredness is due to my internship at APLA.”
—Emily Brown, Washington University, St. Louis

How To Apply

To apply, please email Sean Jamar Lawrence at, and include your résumé and a writing sample (preferably related to the social sciences, research, or health). Please indicate the dates of your availability, whether you are applying for the gap year internship or the three-month internship, and the number of hours per week you can work. Greater availability and/or hours will be preferable to more limited availability. Applications are due by the following dates:

  • March 31 for internships starting in June
  • June 30 for internships starting in September
  • November 30 for internships starting in January