By Renée Masching, Director of Research & Policy
I have to thank a colleague for including the expression “only RIGHTS will fix the Wrongs” in their email tag line. Such a simple and clear message that resonates with the work and specifically the research that we are engaged in at CAAN. Looking back over our very busy summer I am so proud to be part of an amazing group of people who work as hard as they can – and push themselves to do their utmost – for our peoples living with HIV and for our community of stakeholders, friends, fellow researchers and allies.
Hosting Wise Practices gatherings is always intense. We are bringing together our whole family – the inlaws (the outlaws), those who we get to see often and distant relatives who we only get to see when we gather. Not everyone knows each other, there are many different values and experiences represented within our CAAN family and some people join in for the first time.
Wise Practices V unfolded in the tradition of our past gatherings. Lots and lots of meetings, review, planning, revising, hoping, praying and diving in. For the first time, we partnered with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health (IAPH) to welcome graduate students from across Canada. This was a wonderful opportunity for CAAN to showcase our research commitment and for the IAPH to connect with a new group of community members. Those attending the National Gathering of Graduate Students were meeting at the same time as our National APHA Caucus and Community Readiness training participants. I am certain that everyone benefited from the great energy that was created in a space with enthusiasm for learning, for advocacy and for healing.
Building on our incredible events, I moved into the International context with some of our CAAN family to attend the International AIDS Society 2015 Conference. It is so interesting to see your home through the eyes of others. The IAS 2015 emphasized science more than community. As a member of the advisory committee for the CanCURE project I was honoured to have support to attend the conference and to contribute to a panel presentation about community engagement in Cure research. There is so much to learn and attending sessions about basic science was amazing. The CanCURE project helped out team members by linking us with a ‘buddy’ who would help us to translate basic science and we could help them to understand community context. Great Idea!
Alongside the presentations and the conference work there was activism. When strong women come together nothing stands in their way and with the support of young people the momentum is even more powerful. Doris Peltier, Marama Pala (Maori from New Zealand), Shari Margolese and Jessica Whitbread are just some of the fantastic women I spent time with making banners and preparing for a die in at the YouthCo offices one evening. For a time on Tuesday morning we demanded attention in the response to HIV and AIDS around the world.
Only RIGHTS will fix the wrongs… only raising our voices, working as hard as we can, gathering together and uniting our energies and our visions will bring us to our destination.