BACKGROUND

There have been high levels of meaningful engagement and collaboration in Atlantic Canada between people living with HIV and/or HCV, people who use drugs, AIDS service and other community-based organizations, academic researchers, and policy makers. The bridge between these collaborations has been the Atlantic Interdisciplinary Research Network on Social and Behavioural Issues in Hepatitis C and HIV (AIRN). In existence since 2005, AIRN is a well-established research network of over 250 individuals and organizations working in the area of hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS in the Atlantic region. AIRN has been partnering since 2009 with other regional networks across Canada to address the HIV epidemic nationally via the CIHR Centre for REACH in HIV/AIDS (REACH 1.0 and 2.0). AIRN has also been the Atlantic regional partner for the CIHR Collaborative Centre since 2012, and houses the Atlantic CBR Research Manager.

GOALS AND PRIORITIES

The goal of AIRN is to coordinate research efforts to support evidence-based decision-making to influence policy, programs, and practices to prevent the transmission of HIV and HCV, and to improve the quality of life of those affected. CBR priorities in the Atlantic are focussed on: Harm reduction, addiction and mental health; stigma, discrimination and resiliency; STBBI testing; HIV and aging; and PHA leadership.

PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS

With the support of the CBR Collaborative 2012-2017, the Atlantic CBR Team has made great strides in engaging, informing and mobilizing the HIV sector regionally. It has worked in practical ways to build capacity through its KTE efforts. Involvement in CBR and KTE, particularly directed at policy makers, has been especially successful in enhancing harm reduction services for some of the region’s most marginalized populations. The following are a few examples of key successes and outcomes from members of the Atlantic CBR Team since 2014:

 

MOVING FORWARD

The momentum for CBR in the Atlantic region over the course of the last few years through the CBR Collaborative is evident in the interest and commitment shown by the 30 members of the Atlantic Team assembled to guide and drive the CBR development and capacity building efforts in the region. This team has more than doubled since the first iteration of the CBR Centre and includes a diverse and dynamic combination of community, academic, government, and clinical partners.

In the next few years, the Atlantic Team will build on its successes by continuing to identify needs and gaps for research and training, building relationships with local researchers and knowledge users, and coordinating responses to current regional priorities. AIRN is well equipped to serve in an effective and enhanced KTE role via its newly designed website, social media and webinar technology, extensive listserv, and open membership teleconferences. A key focus will be to generate research ideas, initiatives, and funding proposals that are aligned with regional priorities and needs.

The Atlantic Team—co-led by Gerard Yetman, the Executive Director of the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador and Susan Kirkland, the Director of AIRN and professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University—has set its sights on the following objectives, which will the focus for the first two years of the grant and will be assessed for ongoing relevance prior to year three.

  1. To support and/or collaborate on current and potential CBR and program science research and initiatives through research team participation and the provision of KTE. Examples include:
  • Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People (HANDUP) (MAC AIDS)
  • Project PEER (People Living with HIV Engaged in Employment Roles) Environmental Scan (REACH 2.0)
  • Development of Provincial Service Models for Needle Disposal and Distribution & Safe Consumption Sites (Nova Scotia Harm Reduction Working Group)
  • Moving towards a wider range of harm reduction services in Nova Scotia (REACH 2.0)
  • The Canadian HIV Stigma Index CBR Project (CIHR)
  • Ending HIV Stigma in Canada: Adapting and Applying Contact-Based Interventions (PHAC)
  1. To enhance CBR capacity across the Atlantic Region by actively promoting and supporting the use of effective tools and resources available through existing channels (e.g. CIHR Collaborative, REACH, UWW, and the OHTN) and by leveraging funds to host at least one in-person regional KTE/capacity building event and two webinars related to Atlantic-based research priorities per year.
  2. To broaden and strengthen AIRN’s CBR partnerships and network by at least 15% per year toward a more active and effective regional multi-sectoral CBR network skilled in participatory evaluation and program science.
  3. To generate research ideas and funding proposals aligned with both regional and national priorities to ensure AIRN’s sustainability beyond the five-year CBR Collaborative 2.0 grant.

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