A Gathering of Support: Developing an Aboriginal grassroots research network on HIV/AIDS

September 11, 2009

Aboriginal people are listed as a population at risk for HIV/AIDS and potentially fit into all but one group on the list of at-risk populations: People living with HIV/AIDS, gay men, injection drug users, Aboriginal people, prison inmates, youth and women at risk for HIV infection, and people from countries where HIV is endemic.

In response, a network of Aboriginal people, organizations and agencies striving to support Aboriginal people living with HIV/AIDS (APHAs) held a 2008 workshop in Regina to highlight several initiatives aimed at helping the community.

Margaret Akan and Carrie Bourassa of the First Nations University of Canada spearheaded the project, with SPHERU involvement from Mary Hampton. Canadian Institutes of Health Research sponsored the event.

The workshop would highlight several initiatives including lived experiences of APHAs, community-based organizations’ perspectives, importance of research (principles of Ownership, Control, Access, Possession or OCAP), group research activity, future Aboriginal HIV/AIDS research projects. Specifically, the focus of the workshops was to ask the following questions:

1) What is your knowledge about HIV/AIDS among Aboriginal people?

2) How do you think our research can assist in reducing rates of HIV/AIDS among Aboriginal People?

3) What kinds of services or supports regarding HIV/AIDS and Aboriginal people exist in your area? What kinds of services or supports would you like to see?

4) What should our research priorities be over the next year? Three years? Five years?

The workshop included the participation by Elders to provide the guidance and traditional ceremonies needed to complete the circle. The workshop was based on Aboriginal ways of knowledge and conducted in methods respectful to all.

The two-day workshop highlighted the experiences of APHAs’ community-based organizations' perspectives, the importance of research (principles of Ownership, Control, Access, Possession, or OCAP), group research activity, and future Aboriginal HIV/AIDS research projects.

An objective to develop partnerships supporting applications for funding to complete research among the Aboriginal population of Saskatchewan will foster a working relationship among academics, Elders, community groups, and others.