ACT Research Day Agenda

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

10:05 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.


Winston Husbands, ACT
10:20 a.m. – 10:50 p.m.


The Proposed Ontario HIV Strategy: Engagement, Prevention and Care
Frank McGee, AIDS Bureau, (MOHLTC) (presenter)
Darien Taylor (moderator/facilitator)
10:55 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Moderated Discussion on Strategy
12:20 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

1:05 p.m. – 2:05 p.m.

Going viral: Informing and influencing the public’s understanding of HIV

Janet Butler-McPhee, Director of Communications, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Cécile Kazatchkine, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Andrew Brett, Specialist, Advertising and Digital Marketing, CATIE
Bob Leahy, Editor,

New research over the past few years has dramatically changed our understanding of HIV. Some of this new knowledge and new directions encompass “treatment as prevention”, “undetectable viral load” and “PrEP”. Outside of the HIV sector, the public’s understanding sometimes feels like it is still stuck in the 1980s. Presenters from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, CATIE and will use real-world examples to demonstrate effective and practical ways to bring politicians, journalists, judges and the general public up to speed with what we know.

Sex-Positivity: Definitions, Declarations, and Applications

Rahim Thawer is a registered social worker, consultant, post-secondary instructor, and psychotherapist working at Centennial College, Sherbourne Health Centre and in private practice. He's a former Bathhouse Counsellor from the TowelTalk program at ACT.

Front line workers and organizations are increasingly describing their approach to service as 'sex-positive'. But, what does this mean? Are there multiple definitions? Are there limitations? Are there specific ways to be sex-positive? This interactive knowledge building session will answer these questions by reviewing some of the popular ideas around what it means to be both sex-positive and sex-negative while also beginning a conversation around providing sex-positive services to the frequent target groups of sex-negativity: women, sex workers, and gay/bisexual men. Brief case scenarios will also be used to generate group discussion.

2:10 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.

2:25 p.m. - 3:40 p.m.

Stress and mental health concerns of Aboriginal women living with HIV and HIV-negative Aboriginal women


Anita C. Benoit, PhD, MHSR. CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow, Women’s College Research Institute, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto

Stress and mental health concerns are prevalent in the lives of many Aboriginal women. The Aboriginal Women’s Stress Study (AWSS) aimed to explore mental health through the non-stigmatizing topic of stress. AWSS was conducted with 30 Aboriginal women living with HIV and 60 HIV-negative women greater than 18 years old who completed a questionnaire measuring socio-demographics, stress, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Descriptive statistics were used to summarize characteristics. There were few differences between socio-demographics, stress and mental health between the women living with HIV and those reporting being HIV-negative. The median age of the women was 42 [30-47] years. Co-morbidities were reported by ~80% of the women and severe depressive symptoms by 60%. Among HIV-negative women, 62% reported very high perceived stress levels in contrast to 42% of HIV-positive women. Severe levels of PTSD were reported by ~80% of the women. Importantly, 70% of HIV-negative and 80% of HIV-positive women made lifestyle changes and were practicing stress management which included culture. Characterizing socio-demographics, stress and mental health enables the identification of differences and similarities that could be used as targets or elements to incorporate in interventions to address stress and mental health as well as for HIV prevention strategies.

Other Ways of Knowing: South Asian women share their truth about living with HIV

Vijaya Chikermane, Executive Director, Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP)

More Than Fiction is an anthology of 12 personal narratives written by South Asian women living with HIV/AIDS. Initiated by the members of ELAN, ASAAP’s social support group for South Asian POZ women, the project explores ways to add South Asian women’s voices to the HIV/AIDS movement. Through narrative writing workshops, participants developed stories that reflected what was important to them. While no leading questions or themes were provided, women naturally focused on how they cope, where they find happiness and what makes them strong. Overall, the anthology covers intersecting issues related to HIV disclosure, treatment adherence, support networks, education, family, sex and sexuality, gender identity, and spirituality. To date, over 250 copies of More than Fiction have been shared with PHA communities and partners. Importantly, the knowledge rooted within these stories can inform and improve service provision specifically tailored to racialized women living with HIV/AIDS.

Although, not a standard research endeavour, one of the project’s primary goals is to inspire and share knowledge with a focus on therapeutic and social outcomes. This initiative has enabled us to explore and validate other ways of knowing that while not considered traditional research, uncovers what people consider their truth.

Is any job better than no job? Labour market experiences and depressive symptoms in people living with HIV

Sergio Rueda, PhD., Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He is also Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and Adjunct Scientist at the Institute for Work and Health.

In this presentation, we will summarise research on the relationship between employment and health in HIV, showing that employment is good for health, but also that being healthy is a necessary condition to return to work or remain employed. We will use data from the Employment Change and Health Outcomes (ECHO) study, a community-based research project, to take a closer look at the relationship between the quality of work (not just the availability of it) and mental health. We will show that higher levels of job insecurity and psychological demands, and lower levels of decision authority, are associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms. This study also shows that poor quality employment was associated with a similar level of depressive symptoms as unemployment, suggesting that “bad jobs” may not offer the same mental health benefits as “good jobs”. Programs and policies to improve employment outcomes should take the quality of employment into account to maximize mental health benefits as better work may lead to better mental health.

3:45 p.m. - 4:05 p.m.


Learning for health research success: the story of

Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco is Director, Education and Training, Ontario HIV Treatment Network and New media in HIV doyenne.

The Canada's Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) states thatPatient engagement occurs when patients meaningfully and actively collaborate in the governance, priority setting, and conduct of research, as well as in summarizing, distributing, sharing, and applying its resulting knowledge”. The Learning Place for Community Based Research in HIV//AIDS does this. TLP collaborates with all in the HIV movement to create 101 instructional modules using the latest technology. This ambitious national 101 HIV research curriculum for people living with HIV and researchers working with them is designed for blended online/in-person delivery. Funding and guidance is provided by stakeholders, CIHR, CAHR and the OHTN. Evaluations show increasing use and learning outcomes. Some invigorating formats such as the online talk show “What’s Hot with PRAs Across Canada” develop appealing and relevant content in non-traditional format.

4:10 p.m. - 4:20 p.m.

Winston Husbands, ACT

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