In addition to supporting population-based applied program science projects, REACH 2.0 will support research, policy and community teams focused on cross-cutting programs and services.

Each region has engaged in a process to identify HIV-related research priorities from the perspective of community partners. While some research priorities are unique to each region, other priorities (stigma, POC testing, IPV, and peer support) are priorities in multiple regions. REACH 2.0 is committed to supporting conversation, research development, and implementation and evaluation around these topics that are of interest across the country.

Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence (“IPV”) is a major problem that relates to HIV. Not only are victims of IPV more vulnerable to acquiring HIV, but the presence of IPV negatively impacts HIV care by delaying access to diagnosis and engagement in care, missed clinical appointments, non-adherence to anti-retroviral therapy, and increased all-cause hospitalizations. As well, the presence of HIV may increase the risk of violence within a relationship.

REACH 2.0 will continue to conduct research on IPV and HIV, and will monitor the impact of a screening protocol developed by the Southern Alberta HIV Clinic, one of our member agencies. REACH 2.0 hopes to expand the screening protocol nationally to other HIV clinics in order to:

  • Determine the prevalence of IPV within populations of individuals living with HIV
  • Document and analyze regional variations in the HIV/IPV syndemic
  • Develop closer ties between HIV clinics and community agencies that specialize in IPV in order to ensure seamless referrals, and
  • Determine whether and how to adapt IPV screening surveys to specific populations.

Point-of-Care Testing  

Point-of-Care (POC) testing refers to the practice of providing a rapid HIV test at a patient’s regular health clinic, rather than sending a blood sample to a laboratory. REACH is spearheading research on POC testing across all regions with the goal of generating a set of evidence-based best practices that can be used to develop and implement effective POC testing interventions across the country. This will be done through a scoping review to identify:

  • Existing HIV POC testing interventions
  • Strategies to connect with hard-to-reach groups, and
  • Relevant policies and training practices or guidelines.

REACH 2.0 will expand this work to look more broadly at scaling up existing technologies and testing new technologies (such as home testing and combined STI-HIV-HCV testing).  

Supporting the Supporters

REACH 2.0 is strongly committed to the greater and more meaningful involvement of people with or at risk of HIV in research and in community-based research. Our Supporting the Supporters project will advise, support, and set priorities for research and capacity building to meet the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS (peers) who are engaged in service provider roles or as Peer/Community Research Associates in the HIV/AIDS sector in Canada.

As part of REACH 2.0, Supporting the Supporters will:

  • Enhance the capacity to meet and be responsive to the needs of PHAs in support, service, and research roles across Canada
  • Identify opportunities for cross-regional initiatives and information sharing, and
  • Promote and pursue participation across the diverse range of populations affected by HIV/AIDS, paying particular attention to specific research needs and knowledge transfer activities within ethno-cultural and racialized communities.

The Canadian HIV Stigma Index

Stigma can act as a profound stressor in the lives of people living with HIV. Stigma can negatively affect care, treatment, and support, and it has been linked to reduced well-being and quality of life. Stigma often arises from misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted and from judgmental attitudes towards social groups that are disproportionately affected by HIV, such as gay men and other men who have sex with men, Indigenous people, and people from countries where HIV is endemic.

To respond to the serious problem of stigma, REACH 2.0—with the support of North American affiliate of the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+NA), the International Community of Women Living with HIV and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS—will undertake the Canadian implementation of the People Living with HIV Stigma Index.

This nation-wide project will be led by a steering committee made up entirely of people living with HIV, and will seek to:

  • Document the experience of stigma and discrimination from the perspective of people with HIV
  • Examine resilience factors that may reduce the negative impact of stigma and discrimination, and
  • Translate community experiences into language that decision-makers can use to build programs, services and policies that mitigate the experience of stigma.

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