The AHA Centre: Looking forward, looking back

July 2012, CAAN received news that our application to CIHR for a national research collaborative centre that would support Indigenous HIV and AIDS, community-based research (CBR) in Canada was funded. The AHA Centre would be incorporated into CAAN’s research agenda for the next five years. At the outset of the Centre we invited Elders Maggie Paul from the St. Mary’s First Nation and Cliff Thomas from Peguis First Nation to work with us, to hold up the spiritual work of the Center and to guide our work in a good way as well. Cliff and Maggie became members of our Governing Council, comprised of Principle Investigators and Knowledge Users on the CIHR grant submission. Four broad areas were identified for AHA Centre activities to focus on:

  • partnership building and maintenance;
  • capacity building;
  • research promotion and support; and
  • knowledge-to-action.

With two fulltime staff, administration support and Community Research Associates (CRAS) across the country, we set out to fulfil our promises to our community. The AHA Centre publishes an annual, peer reviewed journal – the Canadian Journal of Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Community-Based Research (CJACBR). Every two years we host our Wise Practices Gathering, an event that brings together APHAs, community and academic researchers, students, Indigenous people across Canada and from around the world, and our allies, as well as policy makers and other stakeholders to share our work and knowledge of HIV and AIDS in the Indigenous community in Canada. The AHA Centre offers CBR and grants crafting workshops. We have presented about our work regionally, nationally and internationally. We offer support to students and non-Indigenous researchers who express an interest in HIV research in the Indigenous community and support Indigenous students who are learning the ropes in academia, and so, so much more.

November 2016, we brought together members of our Governing Council, our evaluators, CRAs and staff to draft objectives, a mission and vision statement and strategy plan for an application to CIHR for another five years of funding for the AHA Centre. Thanks to a lot of hard work, creativity and dedication from team members—past, present and future—we learned in April that the AHA Centre has been funded for another five years!  We would like to extend a heart-felt thank you to everyone who contributed—together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

The AHA Centre: Chapter 2: We have heard loud and clear from the AHA Interim evaluation that the we need to work on creating a bigger name and clearer identity for the Centre. To this end, we are preparing for a new, half time communications person, working to create a stronger AHA Centre brand and developing a better, more resource-heavy, comprehensive web presence. Learning from the past five years, we have also pared down our objectives from seven to five, with one over-arching objective that speaks to the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing into all that we do at the Centre. We’ve narrowed down our vision and mission statements and we’re establishing advisory committees for our Capacity Building and Knowledge Translation work. And fear not! All the things that made the first five years of the AHA Centre great and relevant to our community—the journal, Wise Practices, the mentorship and capacity building work that we’ve done etc.—will remain.

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