The flames have been lit, and embers of research are burning bright across the country in small little pockets. Little clusters of communities, organizations and academics, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, have come together to learn what community-based research (CBR) is all about. We are learning in a positive way from one another on how to work together towards our common goal: the fight against HIV and AIDS among Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
In CBR, it is recognized that every person has something of value to contribute, drawing from our lived experiences, education and/or professional backgrounds. Interest in CBR is growing as more and more people learn that this kind of research ensures community involvement from the beginning to the end of a research project. CBR does not work unless everyone is seated around the fire; community members, academics, policy makers and, in this case, HIV and AIDS research front line workers must watch and listen to each other. Those who are deeply engaged in their communities are able to contribute intimate knowledge and experience of the important issues their community is grappling with.
Although challenging at times, the work that the individuals in this field do is rewarding. It provides the opportunities for capacity building in many directions, technically, physically, professionally, spiritually – the list could go on. It is ultimately effective because it brings stakeholders, who might never connect, together through a shared goal.
In 2006, CAAN hosted our first Wise Practices Gathering in Vancouver. This Gathering was, and remains to this day, the first of its kind: the only Aboriginal Community-Based HIV and AIDS research gathering in Canada and the world. Since that year, CAAN continued to host Wise Practices events in 2008 in Toronto, and 2011 in Halifax. This year, we proudly passed the Wise Practices torch to the newly funded AHA Centre (Aboriginal HIV and AIDS Community-based Research Collaborative Centre) as the Gathering’s host organization.
Wise Practices IV: The Role of Research in Getting to Zero was held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan from September 24th to September 27th. In keeping with previous events, this year’s gathering promised to be a balanced mix of informative and dynamic research sessions that speak to issues such as engagement of peers in research work, using research as a catalyst to effective change in our communities and youth engagement. This year also served as a platform for the international work that our colleagues from the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV and AIDS (IIWGHA) are engaged in.
It is our hope that the embers of the research fires we’ve started with the very first Wise Practices in 2006 continue to spark interest in Community-Based HIV and AIDS Research in the Aboriginal community across the country.