By Sherri Pooyak, Community-Based Research Manager (West)

Since the last newsletter came out Marni Amirault and I, the Community-Based Research Managers with the AHA Centre, have been incredibly busy attending conferences where we are talking about the AHA Centre and promoting the work that CAAN is doing. One of the best trips this year was to St. John’s, Newfoundland for the annual Canadian Association for HIV Research. Here we are at Cape Spear, NS – the eastern most point in Canada, which is pretty amazing since I live in Victoria, BC.

Conferences are always a great opportunity to share, with academics and community, the work that CAAN and the AHA Centre are doing.

In May, I attended a community conference co-hosted by CAAN community partner, Shining Mountains Living Community Services, and local academic partner Red Deer College. The Voices to Action project is something I have been involved in for the past couple of years and was asked to give the keynote, which was titled: “Conducting Research in a good way: Working together with Aboriginal communities affected by HIV and AIDS.” It was an absolute honour to be invited to attend as well as give the keynote.

Following this conference, I attended a forum in Prince George, BC that was hosted by the Pacific AIDS Network and UNBC on priority setting for northern BC in regards to HIV and AIDS. This was great conference and I was able to develop new relationships in the north as well as gain a better understanding of some of the unique issues occurring in that region’s rural and remote areas. One of our partners, the Aboriginal Health Research Network Secretariat, has an annual National Gathering of graduate students. This year it was held at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. I was again, asked to present on the work of the AHA Centre and CAAN. It was exciting to share with students about the centre and hopefully get more Aboriginal students interested in Community-Based Research and HIV.

In addition to attending and give conference presentations, there are also meetings to be present at. Community meetings are an important part of our work as it gives us, at the AHA Centre, an opportunity to meet and connect with CAAN partners. For example, the Cedar Project, a BC-based research initiative, and Digging Deep: Examining the root causes of HIV and AIDS among Aboriginal women, are both CIHR funded CBR Operating grant supported research projects that are led by, for and within their respective local communities. Being a part of these grants and supporting them anyway the AHA Centre can is an important part of the work we do.

The end of June was CAAN’s annual general meeting that was held in Toronto. It was a great opportunity to connect with both the CAAN staff and to meet new people. The AGM is always a great CAAN event as it I get to hear about all the great programs, research projects and activities that are happening across the country.

After the AGM, the AHA Centre, had our very first Community Research Associates training. Over the course of two days, Marni and I met with the four current CRAs. The two-day training was a great success as it allowed us to get to know the CRAs and hear about the work they are doing. The training was meant to coach the CRAs about the AHA Centre and CAAN, however it evolved into an opportunity for sharing and learning from one another. In summary it was a great success! The CRAs learned about the AHA Centre and CAAN and also gained a better understanding of the CIHR grants program and how to write and submit a CIHR grant. Marni and I got to learn about the amazing work the CRAs are engaged in, both academically and in communities in regards to promoting and understanding research. We hope to hire the next six CRAs in the fall, so stay tuned for job posting in the following provinces: BC, MB, QC, Yukon, NWT and one representing the entire Atlantic region.

From June 28th-30th, CAAN sponsored the Community Readiness Harm Reduction Model campaign, National Train-The-Trainer session, to help both on- and off-reserve people to address HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C (HCV) and Sexually Transmitted Infections and Blood Borne Infections (STBBIs) in Toronto.

CAAN is currently under construction. Please check back soon for updates.