CAHR 101 Workshop

In the days leading up to the CAHR conference (Canadian Association of HIV Researchers), SHARE and REACH hosted a workshop in Saskatoon called CAHR 101 on March 26. This workshop was for Peers and staff of community-based organizations who were attending CAHR for the very first time. The 15 participants – the majority of whom were Peers – were a mix of scholarship recipients, people whose abstracts had been accepted and people attending on behalf of their organization. This full day workshop covered:

  • Impact of the CAHR conference on our work
  • Structure of the conference overall, defining key terms (abstract, ancillary, plenary, etc) and how sessions are organized
  • What the four research tracks mean and how to navigate the conference program
  • How to make sense of abstract titles in order to decide which sessions to attend
  • Self-care tips for getting the most out of 3-5 very intense days!

Participants said that this session helped them to feel more confident at the conference, as it prepared them for concepts and processes that would be overwhelming to learn on-site (specifically, deciphering abstract titles and understanding how the conference program is organized). Based on the success of this workshop, we look forward to offering it again in future years, perhaps to an even wider audience!

For a PDF copy of the workshop slides, please contact Sugandhi at


Upcoming CAHR Ancillary: HIV-STBBI Testing – Where are we now?

The countdown to CAHR has begun! We look forward to welcoming you to Saskatoon in Treaty 6 Territory and the Traditional Homeland of the Métis Nation.

SHARE and REACH are co-hosting an ancillary session on Thursday, May 9 from 12-4 pm. Join us as we learn and share experiences about:

  • Dry Blood Spot (DBS) testing using both community-based and self-collection approaches
  • Insti HIV Self-Test, the first HIV self-testing kit available in Canada
  • Pharmacy-based point-of-care rapid testing

This session will continue the rich discussion of our 2018 ancillary, Exploring alternative methods to HIV testing to meet Canada’s Obligation to UNAIDS 90-90-90 Targets. Through the lens of different testing approaches and technology, we will continue to push for progress in HIV-STBBI testing across Canada in a good way.

HIV-STBBI Testing: Where are we now?


Identifying Saskatchewan’s research priorities

On March 18th SHARE (Saskatchewan HIV/AIDS Research Endeavour) held a priority setting meeting to identify regional and provincial research priorities among it’s stakeholders. Delegates representing clinical, lived experience, academic, community, laboratory and policy perspectives were invited to attend. The meeting was held at Station 20 West, a community enterprise hub in Saskatoon; 40 people attended the meeting, 10 of whom identified as Peers (People Living with HIV). A short presentation from SCPOR (Saskatchewan Centre for Patient Oriented Research) highlighted ten ways that delegates could access funding or seek different supports for their research projects.

By the end of the meeting, the top five research priorities identified were (in no particular order):

  • Harm Reduction and PrEP
  • Addictions and Mental Health
  • Testing and Linkage to Care
  • Peer Led Work
  • Prisons, Institutions, Housing, and Homelessness

Attendees emphasized that Indigenous methodologies and inclusion of Trans and Two-Spirit Peoples must be woven throughout these priorities (and hence were not identified as separate priorities). Further, people felt that Peer-Led Work should be included as its own priority to highlight the importance of GIPA and MEPA in all research.

The full report will be available soon. Watch this space!


How Do We Measure Success? Developing Shared Outcome Tools for HIV Supportive Housing Services in Western Canada

A multi-province team spanning Western Canada has utilized a participatory program evaluation approach to develop shared outcome tools for HIV supportive housing programs. The team developed the tools to demonstrate how their programs improve not just the physical health of people living with HIV, but also their quality of life.

Baseline intake and follow-up tools were developed through a series of participatory workshops, interviews, and meetings that included frontline staff, clients, and the family members of service users. The aim of this process was to collaboratively build relevant outcome measures that were useful to services users and front-line staff, and were capable of demonstrating change over time among clients.

Led by Floyd Visser (The SHARP Foundation) and Dr. Cathy Worthington (University of Victoria), this project brought together service providers from across Western Canada. Service providers included Sanctum Group from Saskatoon, and McLaren Housing Society and the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation from Vancouver. Additional partners included Dr. Brent Oliver (Mount Royal University), Dr. Hart Krentz (Southern Alberta HIV/AIDS Clinic), Janice Duddy (Pacific AIDS Network), and an HIV positive peer.

In addition to developing useful tools, the collaborative nature of this project enhanced provider-provider relationships in Western Canada. The project facilitated opportunities for providers to learn from each other, and to work together in strengthening supportive housing programs for people living with HIV.

Read more about this project, and other REACH 2.0 initiatives here.


Exploring alternative methods to HIV testing to meet the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets

On April 26, 2018, the National HIV/AIDS Laboratories, National Microbiology Laboratory – Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) collaborated with REACH 2.0 and the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCCID) to bring together over 50 participants from across Canada to reflect on methods for HIV testing. The session featured four testing technologies that provide alternatives to the standard approach to HIV testing. These approaches have the potential to expand HIV testing options in Canada when scaled up and implemented in a sustainable manner:

  • Self-testing: Performing an HIV test on oneself, either alone or in the presence of a health or service provider.
  • Pharmacy-delivered point-of-care testing: Training pharmacists to test for and deliver HIV results to clients.
  • Multiplex testing: Screening for multiple infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, as well as syphilis
  • Dried blood spot (DBS) testing: Collecting blood samples on filter paper within a community setting – once the sample has dried, it can be sent by regular mail to a laboratory for further testing.

Over the course of the presentations and the discussions that ensued, we identified three salient themes:

  1. Stigma, confidentiality and the ways in which testing is advertised.

Participants noted that positive messaging was key to encouraging testing and reducing HIV-associated myths around transmission. Digital strategies could be another way to increase testing while respecting privacy. Creating supportive and culturally safe environments were also discussed – specifically, the importance of relationship-building and establishing trust. Peers are a bridge between communities and health care providers.

  1. Local community engagement and local partnerships.

Community buy-in and strong leadership are essential for successful implementation and sustainability of testing initiatives. This means investing time to engage with policy-makers, community-based organizations, practitioners and government to establish appropriate mechanisms for linkage to care and treatment. From a program science perspective, participants urged researchers to gather data that assessed the quality of the relationship between clients and providers in order to truly evaluate any testing initiatives.

  1. Facilitators for the implementation of new testing strategies.

Supportive, culturally-appropriate and culturally-safe relationships were major components of success. Further, upstream approaches that engage stakeholders are fundamental to improving the cascade of care – testing is but the first step towards a holistic approach to integrated health care. Lastly, work closely with peers to engage communities and improve navigation through complex health systems.

A final point worth noting is that, while the implementation of new testing approaches is timely and needed, we should also look to improving our current “standard” approach to HIV testing. What do you think?

Thank you to everyone who participated in the session, to the event organizers and to each of the panelists. An extra big thank you to Dr. John Kim from the National HIV/AIDS Laboratory for pitching the idea for this event, and to Geneviève Boily-Larouche from the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCCID) for compiling the session evaluations and preparing an excellent summary of the discussions. This report will be available soon!


New Implementation Science Research Design Tool

The Centre for Implementation Science at King’s College London has recently developed the ImpRes Tool. Its purpose is to support research teams who are in the process of designing implementation research and work to implement evidence-based interventions into practice.See:


MB HIV Collective Impact Network April Symposium Great Success!

A Great Success!
The Symposium was an overwhelming success with over 95 people in attendance on April13. The purpose of the event was for knowledge exchange, idea generation and for network building. We had people from Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia as well as people from all over Manitoba!
We were pleased to have 18 posters including a quilt as a poster!
We particularly appreciated the many out-of-town presenters and participants who were able to attend.
Many thanks to all the helpers who made this happen: including volunteers, staff, students, & our Stewardship Team.
We will be preparing a report. Watch for it in our next Monthly e-news in June!


Indigenous Health: The Mysteries and Myths of the HIV Crisis in Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) Saskatchewan Regional Network will be hosting a half-day conference on May 4, in Saskatoon, to discuss Indigenous Health: The Mysteries and Myths of the HIV Crisis in Saskatchewan.

This joint effort will bring together health researchers, government officials and other key stakeholders to learn about current efforts, explore potential areas for collaboration, and create next steps to turn our present efforts in research and programming into improved prevention and health outcomes.

The panel of speakers includes Drs. Carrie Bourassa, Alexandra King, JoLee Sasakamoose and Lynn Thompson.

Registration is limited to 150 attendees, and there is no cost to attend. Registration deadline is April 27: Please click here to RSVP. For more information, please contact SHRF at


Saskatchewan announces universal coverage for HIV medication

On April 10th, the Government of Saskatchewan released the 2018 budget. Full highlights can be found here, and there was some good news:

  • Universal coverage of HIV medications thanks to an investment of $600,000
  • HIV supports in the form of $50,000 each towards AIDS Saskatoon and West Side Community Clinic, two organizations that provide critical social and health services to people accessing care in Saskatoon

More specifically, the funding for AIDS Saskatoon will be used to strengthen their successful in-hospital peer support program, which has seen notable results in increasing linkage and retention in care.

The government’s focus on austerity continues, however, and it remains to be seen how efforts to address the social determinants of health – from an upstream perspective – will be affected by this fiscal approach.


Dried blood spot testing research in Saskatchewan

Dried blood spot (DBS) testing has been around for decades but is gaining attention in Canada as a way to increase HIV and HCV testing, as well as simplify testing approaches. Compared to the standard venipuncture used for confirmatory testing, DBS greatly simplifies blood collection, transport and conservation. It also has potential to increase testing among harder-to-reach populations – especially when the test can be offered outside of clinical settings – and is well suited for testing among people who may have compromised veins from injection drug use.

SHARE (the Saskatchewan HIV/AIDS Research Endeavour), has secured a CIHR planning grant to develop an HIV and HCV DBS testing study for Saskatchewan. In partnership with AIDS Saskatoon, All Nations Hope, the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority and Wellness Wheel, work has begun to convene an early summer meeting with key stakeholders. By bringing together a mix of researchers, people with lived experience, frontline organizations, elders and knowledge keepers, laboratory experts and policy-makers, the aim of the meeting is to identify and address barriers to DBS implementation in Saskatchewan. The meeting will also create space to discuss the ethics of bio-sampling (also known as ‘DNA on loan,’ to quote Dr. Alexandra King), which is a particularly hot topic in Saskatchewan. The goal of the meeting is to develop a holistic study that will support culturally-responsive policy change, broaden the scope of who can offer testing and to increase the array of testing options across the province.