Community Preparedness in the Context of HIV Point of Care Testing (POCT) – Brief Event Summary

On June 19, 2015 the Gender and Health Promotion Studies Unit under the direction of Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan (PI) convened a CIHR-funded workshop titled “Community Preparedness in the Context of HIV Point of Care Testing (POCT).” The purpose of this workshop was to discuss the current state of readiness for non-urban communities in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere to implement POCT, to learn from organizations with experience providing POCT, and to initiate development of a national implementation science research grant, and a national POCT action plan. This workshop was held in conjunction with the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia’s annual Knowledge Exchange and Health Promotion Forum.

Participants included community representatives, public health officials, industry, representatives of AIDS service organizations, and health researchers from across the Atlantic Provinces.

A variety of speakers provided an overview of their work with POCT, or regarding the need for POCT, in the Atlantic region and elsewhere in Canada, including:

  • Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan (PI) from Dalhousie University and Alexa Minichiello (RA) discussed the results of a scoping review focused on rapid HIV POCT in non-urban settings.
  • Jennifer Brown from BioLytical described the Insti test.
  • Dr. Thomas Haig from UQUAM described the Montreal-based SPOT Clinic, including lessons learned during the course of the project.
  • Dr. Brent Oliver from Mont Royal University described POCT research in Alberta, with an emphasis on providing POCT to men who have sex with men.
  • Brian Condran (RA) reported on the three-year study Our Youth, Our Response, and the need for POCT and other innovative youth-oriented testing strategies in Atlantic Canada.
  • Rick Galli from BioLytical gave a keynote talk during lunch, which focused on successes and challenges to HIV POCT implementation in Canadian settings, from the perspective of industry.

In the afternoon, participants worked in small groups to discuss potential strategies for promoting POCT in non-urban centres, including Atlantic Canada, as well as potential partners for moving this agenda forward, and the strengths and weaknesses of this testing method. Attendees of the ACNS Knowledge Exchange Forum provided additional input during a large-group discussion.

By the end of the day, workshop participants had set the foundation for a grant application to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and other initiatives such as a national POCT action plan.

For more information, please contact Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan (PI) at



GIPA/MIPA in Action – PHA Leadership and Research Skills Training in the Atlantic

The Atlantic Interdisciplinary Research Network for Social and Behavioural Issues in HIV/AIDS is committed to the greater involvement and meaningful engagement of people living with HIV/AIDS (GIPA/MIPA). Given that GIPA/MIPA  puts PHAs at the centre and is grounded in human rights and the dignity of the full human being (The Ontario Accord, OAN), AIRN members have identified a need in our region to provide people living with HIV/HCV with improved access to training and skills building opportunities to increase their meaningful participation and engagement across the network

At the recent National PRA Dialogue session hosted by Erin Love from CAHR and facilitated by Terry Howard from the Positive Living BC, it was evident that there was a keen interest in developing a grant proposal and establishing a team of local PHAs to drive the process based on the group identified needs. AIRN will be supporting this group over the summer to meet and discuss the training modules in existence (both in person, online, or blended learning approaches) and to establish personalized training plans for each of the interested team members. The early indication is the need to do an appreciative inquiry to inform PHA/PHCV leadership and skills building. Team members will also be actively engaged in the grant writing and if funded, all phases of the grant, including a PRA position!

The team plans to apply for a Team development Grant through the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation in October 2015 for $10,000.

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June Jives with many upcoming events in the Atlantic region

This will be a very busy and exciting month in the Atlantic region. We are all a buzz with many events on the horizon:

  • CHABAC Halifax Hub – Just hosted the third workshop in Halifax. Strengthening the Capacity of Service Providers to Deliver HIV Prevention Programs to the African and Caribbean Diaspora in Canada. It was held on Thursday, May 28th – 9:00am – 4:00pm; and Friday, May 29th – 9:00am . Following this meeting there will be a meeting of the hub later in July and AIRN is very pleased to have our Regional Manager, Sarah Peddle, attend and connect with this group.


  • Nova Scotia LGBTQ Health Research Conference  to be held June 9th & 10th at King’s College in Halifax, NS. The theme is, “The Importance of Patient Engagement and Collaboration in Improving LGBTQ Health in Nova Scotia.” Following this event will be a one day knowledge sharing workshop on LQBTQ health with the theme of, “Developing culturally competent primary health assessment approaches for LGBTQ populations in Nova Scotia.” For information about these or the POCT event, please contact Jacquie Gahagan at:


  • Nova Scotia HIV-STBBI Knowledge Exchange and Health Promotion Forum will be taking place June 17th – 20th, 2015 at Mount Saint Vincent University  in Halifax NS. The theme of this years’ event is, “From Silos to Synergy: Connection and Integration.” AIRN is helping to sponsor a graphic translation artist to attend the community consultation event to be held on June 17th and is also a member of the planning committee for the event.
    • During this forum, AIRN will be supporting AIRN Blended Leadership Committee member Jacqueline Gahagan and team on June 19th, 2015 to host a full day event for the CIHR Catalyst Grant focused on developing community preparedness models for scaling up HIV Point of Care Teating (POCT) in non-urban centres.


  • CAHR Community-Based Research Workshop, “Rise of the Peer Research Associate (PRA):  A National PRA Dialogue” to be held in Halifax June 22nd-23rd, 2015



Harm Reduction, Addiction and Mental Health: CBR Priorities in Action

HRAMH 2Through a research priority setting exercise through the Atlantic Core Team of the CIHR CBR Collaborative: A Program of REACH, harm reduction, addiction and mental health were determined to be key priority areas of research for us over the next 3 years. Ultimately, we seek to maximize the utilization of knowledge in practice/policy, and to inform the development of research with impact to make a measureable difference in the lives of people living with and impacted by HIV and AIDS. In our collective efforts to move evidence into action, we applied to the CIHR Planning and Dissemination Events competition and were successfully funded for the event.

The two day event was held on November 25th and 26th in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the campus of Dalhousie University. The event was informed by the reporting of the findings from CIHR funded projects, and two program evaluations, panel discussions and subsequent strategic planning and further priority setting activities.HRAMH

Based on the two days of presentations and discussion, a detailed action plan are being developed and include: a call for advocacy for evidence-based funding; the development of a seamless, collaborative multi-service health and social care network for people with addictions particularly for PWUD.; and the establishment of a research and evaluation agenda that will demonstrate the cost-effectiveness/ benefits of effective community-based harm reduction services.

An event report and action plan are currently being reviewed by the team and will be available soon.

For correspondence related to this work, please contact either the Atlantic CBR Manager, Sarah Peddle at or the Director of AIRN, Dr. Susan Kirkland, at



Exploring the Landscape of Communicable Diseases in Atlantic Canada: Summary Reports Now Available

AIRN logo 2AIRN recently completed an exciting research project funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). The project began in June 2013 and was completed in March 2014 with KTE activities taking place until December 2014.

Purpose: To identify the current and emerging needs, key issues, linkages and gaps in services provided to persons living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and/or other sexually transmitted or blood-borne infections (STBBIs; Communicable Diseases [CDs]) in Atlantic Canada. In order to be well placed in this changing environment into the future, we will assess how CDs, service needs, and community-based resources have evolved, and how we can best be prepared to meet these emerging trends and needs into the future.

Methods: We conducted 33 face-to-face interviews (13 Executive Directors or Project Leads of PHAC funded organizations, 8 staff members of organizations which partner with PHAC funded organizations, and 12 service users or project participants) and four focus groups (former and current sex workers; people who inject drugs; Aboriginal people living with HCV; and gay men living with HIV).

In addition to extensive consultation, we also undertook a thorough examination of regional surveillance data, prevention and support programming and research. The documCD Landscapeent review included the PHAC funded organizations/projects’ required reporting tool (PERT) and publicly available surveillance reports. Additional selected sources included published academic and grey literature, including community-based publications from various partners across the Atlantic region and from national level organizations.

A technical report and a summary report (in both French and English) are available in the publications section of the AIRN website.

For correspondence related to this work, please contact Dr. Susan Kirkland at (902)494-1235 or at


Rethinking ASOs? Deliberative Dialogue Report Available!

ReThinking-ASOs-report-cover-232x300This project was a partnership between the Atlantic and British Columbia regions. Our goal for Rethinking ASOs? Responding to the End of AIDS Exceptionalism through East-West Collaboration, was to spend time talking about the shifting roles of ASOs. We worked to foster dialogue, to share knowledge, and to develop priorities for further research that can be acted upon together or separately, and ultimately benefit the HIV/AIDS sector. And as the title suggests, our process was grounded in a question – do AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) need rethinking within the current policy context?

We held two simultaneous, one-day Deliberative Dialogue meetings on November 24, 2014 – one in the Atlantic region and one in BC. These were great meetings with a lot of important learning and the final report is now available.


New Study on Point-of-Care Testing in Atlantic Canada

A team led by REACH 2.0 member Jacqueline Gahagan has just received funding from CIHR to explore HIV Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) in Atlantic Canada. Findings from an initial Halifax study suggest that people would like results through POCT, but it is not yet clear whether communities are prepared for new testing approaches like POCT.

To examine this issue, Gahagan’s team will invite 30 people, including those living with HIV or affected by HIV, to a community consultation to talk about their ideas for knowing whether a community is ready for POCT. After this meeting, the team will connect with others by phone to talk about their ideas and experiences in determining community preparedness for POCT.

The team will use this information to develop a draft model that will help them determine whether a community is ready for testing approaches like POCT. The team will also write a larger grant to test the draft POCT preparedness model in other non-urban communities in Canada. The team hopes that through this work it can look at creative, community-based ways of improving access to and uptake of new types of HIV testing, especially in smaller cities and communities across Canada.


Atlantic Canada


In Atlantic Canada, there have been high levels of meaningful engagement, participation, collaboration and partnership between people living with HIV/AIDS, AIDS service and community-based organizations, academic researchers and policy makers. The bridge between these collaborations has been the Atlantic Interdisciplinary Research Network for Social and Behavioural Issues in Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS (AIRN). AIRN currently has over 240 members and has been active since 2005. AIRN was a regional partner in REACH 1.0 and continues to be a regional partner in REACH 2.0. AIRN also houses the Atlantic CBR Manager for the CBR Collaborative: A Program of REACH.

Key Successes and Atlantic Region CBR Priorities

  • Stigma, discrimination and resilience
    1. Example of work in progress: Team members from the Atlantic region have been active participants in the Stigma and Resilience Working Group. As part of this group’s work we have been involved as one of the regional partners on the CIHR Operating Grant application titled, “The Canadian HIV Stigma Index CBR Project: Examining the social and structural drivers of stigma to shape the actionable solution(s) to support people living with HIV and their affected communities.”
  • Testing (access, barriers, types, policy — Rapid Point of Care and anonymous)
    1. Example of work in progress: Halifax Rapid Point of Care in HIV PilotThe purpose of this project is to determine the acceptability and testing uptake rates using POC testing, and to determine the prevalence of HIV among vulnerable, hard-to-access populations in Halifax, Nova Scotia who may be street involved, currently using injection drugs and/or in methadone maintenance therapy. Dr. Jacquie Gahagan and Jack Arthur presented a poster at CAHR 2014 and also presented preliminary findings at the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia’s annual education and information exchange event. A report is currently under way. More information about this project can be found here.
  • Harm reduction, mental health and addictions
    1. Example of work in progress: We have completed a significant body of work addressing this theme so we applied for and were successful in obtaining a CIHR Planning and Dissemination Event grant for $10,000 titled, “Surging ahead in community-based research in HIV/AIDS: Building on our collective knowledge to reduce harms and understand the impact of addiction on people at risk for or living with HIV/AIDS in Atlantic Canada.” A two day meeting was held in Halifax on November 25th and 26th, 2014. An event report and action plan will be available in early 2015.
  • Capacity building needs: Peer Research Associate skills training; PHA leadership training
  • Over-arching frameworks and considerations: healthy sexuality; determinants of health; intersectionality and considerations of rural and remote geography.

To learn more about how we plan to address each of these priorities, please click here to visit the CBR page on the AIRN website where a list of members and terms of reference are also available.

Regional and National Collaborations – Projects

  • Exploring the Landscape of Communicable Diseases in Atlantic Canada was led by AIRN and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. AIRN worked with community and academic partners from July 2013-March 2014. The technical report includes a detailed examination of the current state of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs), affected populations, and associated service delivery needs in Atlantic Canada. The report is meant to be used by people living with HIV or AIDS, Hepatitis C or other STBBIs, staff and volunteers with AIDS service and community-based organizations, community-based HIV/AIDS researchers, health care professionals and policy makers. A summary report has been created and will also be available in French.
  • Rethinking ASOs? Responding to the End of AIDS Exceptionalism through East-West Collaboration (summary prepared by Pacific AIDS Network) – A bi-coastal team, made up of representatives from British Columbia and the Atlantic partnerships, have been leading a process to look at the potential impacts of moves towards more integrated approaches of service delivery. Thus far, the team has conducted a literature review and policy mapping, recorded three video modules, and organized full-day deliberative dialogues on this topic in Halifax and Vancouver (November 2014). Stay tuned for the event report and next steps!
  • Supporting the Supporters: Sarah Peddle and Greg Harris worked with the Interventions Program of Research of REACH 1.0 and submitted a successfully funded CIHR Planning Grant led by Alan Li in 2013. The grant funded a national meeting that was held in March 2014 in Toronto aimed at meeting the needs of peers engaged as service providers in the HIV/AIDS sector across Canada. Greg and Sarah are currently involved in the launch of a new working group for this project supported by the CIHR CBR Collaborative: A Program of REACH.

Initiatives in Development:

  • Developing community preparedness models with our partners for new testing innovations such as multiplex and/or point of care testing among particular communities, locations and populations, with an emphasis on non-urban locations.
  • Developing an assessment of the mental health needs of people living with HIV/AIDS/HCV to outline an actionable framework to address mental health and HIV/AIDS/HCV at community, provincial and regional levels.
  • Emerging priorities such as aging with HIV, understanding frailty in the context of HIV, and Housing First specific work.