By Renee Masching, Research and Policy Manager

CAAN’s research agenda is driven by our membership of Aboriginal people living with HIV and AIDS and Aboriginal organizations. Key areas of focus have included: access to care, treatment and support; stigma and discrimination; mental health and women’s needs. CAAN has led more than a dozen research projects over the past decade and has been an active research team member on more than 20 other research projects. In addition to innovative research projects, CAAN is also maintaining significant investment in capacity building regarding community-based and Indigenous research frameworks.

We have finally been able to initiate two CAAN lead catalyst (or development) projects that we presented about during the 2011 AGM. The 21st Century Moccasin Telegraph team is looking into how to use communication or web 2.0 technologies to promote our work and advance our connection with our communities. Mike Patterson is our project coordinator and we have wonderful support from the CIHR Social Research Centre on Prevention. Sharing the Lay of the Land: Developing an APHA Leadership Intervention Initiative is moving forward slow and steady. Community and academic team members have met and we are in the process of recruiting our part-time coordinator. More news about both of these projects will be shared again at the AGM.

In more exciting news – two new multi-year research projects have been funded! These new research projects will explore understandings of home and housing needs and the impact of living with HIV on the Aboriginal family as whole. The official start date for the projects is April 1st however; funds will begin to flow after ethics submissions and paperwork are completed:

The goal of Stable Home, Strong Family: Housing and Health Solutions for Aboriginal People with HIV/AIDS in Canada is to identify and work toward addressing gaps in appropriate housing options that support cultural identity and concepts of home for APHAs. We will investigate how cultural understandings of home influence HIV-related risk behaviour and quality of life among APHAs. We will seek to understand Aboriginal notions of place and home, and how best to incorporate these into housing design, as powerful contributors in terms of supporting cultural identity and in fostering a sense of connection to family, community and environment.

The overall, long-term aim of Family Matters: Informing a family-based model of care with Aboriginal families affected by HIV is to identify important features and provide Aboriginal-specific recommended solutions toward the development of programmatic intervention models that address and support all members of a family affected by HIV. To achieve our objectives, we will engage Aboriginal families living with HIV and AIDS throughout this multi-method study, recognizing that family within Aboriginal cultural contexts extends beyond biological relations. Family, for those within this study, therefore, may or may not always include the family of biological origin, and does include Aboriginal parents living with HIV, Aboriginal children living with and affected by HIV and others within the kinship circle.

We are also currently involved in projects related to Aboriginal youth (lead by CAAN’s National Aboriginal Youth Council on HIV & AIDS and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network); community-based research with Inuit communities (lead by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada); projects prioritizing women’s health and we contributed towards a new curriculum for continuing medical education credits.

Finally, we are waiting for the June 2012 announcement of results for a CIHR funding competition to establish a national Aboriginal HIV & AIDS Collaborative Centre in Community-based Research (the AHA Centre). The Aboriginal and HIV & AIDS communities will be directly engaged in every aspect of the Centre. With a leadership team of highly respected community-based researchers and Elders, the majority of whom are Aboriginal, the AHA Centre will be governed in a manner that is respectful of the principles of OCAP and the integrity expected by both community and academia. We will unite the research community through a team of researchers with the combined experience, training and community relationships to foster innovative, high impact research in response to HIV & AIDS among Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Information exchange, research development and innovative Knowledge-to-Action will be the cornerstones of the Centre. Supported with 50 letters from academic partners, research community and Aboriginal HIV and AIDS community organizations this is a $1.5 million grant over five years!!!

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