ACT’s Current Research Activities

Reports from previous ACT research studies.


Research and Knowledge Development Activities

Sex, Drugs and Alcohol Survey
Serodiscordant Couples
Evidence-Informed Recommendations in Rehabilitation for Older Adults Living with HIV: A Knowledge Synthesis
Cruising Counts: Examining the Impact of Online and App-based Sexual Health Outreach for MSM in Ontario
Preparing Toronto for PrEP: A community consultation
Gay Poz Sex
Employment Change and Health Outcomes (ECHO)
ACT Research Day
Facilitators and barriers to participation in HIV and health research
Protective Factors (Gay Strengths Study)

Research and Program Development for ACT
Supporting ACT staff with a logic model approach to work planning
Supporting ACT staff with program monitoring and evaluation
Bathhouse Counselling Intervention

The Sex, Drugs and Alcohol Survey

The Sex, Drugs and Alcohol Survey is a community-based research study that looks at alcohol, substance use and sex, among gay, bi and queer men. The study also seeks to learn more about how guys manage risks. The study is a collaboration between ACT and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and supported by the University of Windsor in partnership with service providers and community representatives from Ontario. It is the largest of its kind for Toronto and will provide useful information about alcohol and substance use in order to better inform programming and resource allocation for gay, bi and queer men. The researchers sampled a large number of attendees at World Pride 2014 in Toronto to gather meaningful information about a variety of gay, bi and queer men, including men from diverse ethnic backgrounds, men from urban and rural settings and men from Ontario and other jurisdictions. The study is inclusive of trans men and other men who have sex with men. Duncan MacLachlan is Co-Lead on this study with Dr. Paul Shuper (CAMH), and both he and John Maxwell are Co-Investigators. Preliminary results are expected in fall of 2014. The Sex, Drugs and Alcohol Survey (Alcohol Consumption, Substance Use, and Sexual Risk Behaviour among Gay and Bisexual Men Attending World Pride 2014) is funded by the OHTN.

Developing a Psychoeducational Support Group for Serodiscordant Couples: A Collaborative, Participatory Approach

The AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), David Kelly Services/Family Service Toronto (FST), Mt. Sinai Hospital, the Centre for Spanish Speaking People (CSSP), and the Village Family Health Team are conducting research into group support programs for serodiscordant couples (also known as magnetic or mixed-status couples), where one partner is HIV-positive and the other partner is HIV-negative. The objectives of the project are to:
    • improve our understanding of the support service needs of serodiscordant couples in Toronto.
    • develop, implement and evaluate a psychoeducational support group serodiscordant couples using a collaborative, participatory approach.
    • develop knowledge and assess the impact of using a participatory approach in program development, implementation, and evaluation.
    • increase the capacity of current and future frontline service providers and people living with and/or affected by HIV to engage in a participatory evaluation process that includes piloting an innovative, community-informed group program.
    • generate a set of recommendations regarding the implementation of group programming for serodiscordant couples.

The methods will include: needs assessment survey of people in serodiscordant relationships, an 8-session support group for 6 couples, and participatory planning and evaluation sessions of this group in collaboration with the 6 couples. The research activities will end in late-2014, at which point the project partners will share the results with a broad range of stakeholders to generate dialogue related to program science, community-based research, and organizational development. This project is funded through a Participatory Planning and Evaluation Grant from the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN).

Evidence-Informed Recommendations in Rehabilitation for Older Adults Living with HIV: A Knowledge Synthesis

The project will generate clinical evidence-informed recommendations on rehabilitation for older adults living with HIV. Patty Solomon (McMaster University) is the PI, and Duncan MacLachlan from ACT is a member of the team as a Knowledge User. The project is funded by CIHR.

Cruising Counts: Examining the Impact of Online and App-based Sexual Health Outreach for MSM in Ontario

The goals of this project are to: (1) describe the current state of online outreach for sexual health among gay and bi men in Ontario, (2) identify service providers understandings of current strengths and challenges providing online outreach services including self-care, (3) understand providers evaluation methods used to determine effectiveness of outreach services, (4) identify sustainable outreach services that can respond to changing technologies and platforms, and (5) learn about the experience of online outreach service users. David Brennan (U of T) is the PI, and Duncan MacLachlan from ACT is a Co-Investigator. The project is funded by a grant from the OHTN.

Preparing Toronto for PrEP: A community consultation

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with oral, daily tenofovir/emtricitabine (TDF/FTC, Truvada®) is a novel biomedical approach to HIV prevention shown in the iPrEx trial to be safe and efficacious in reducing HIV acquisition. It has recently been approved in the US. The project explores the potential for a PrEP demonstration project among gay and bisexual men in Toronto. This grant will address the relevant issues through four components: 1) validation of a published HIV risk assessment tool for gay/bi men in an analysis of behavioural risk data among these men undergoing HIV testing at Hassle Free Clinic; 2) a survey of these men about their opinions on PrEP; and, 3) focus groups with a sub-set of potential PrEP users and non-users to explore their opinions in greater detail; and finally, 4) a forum to discuss findings and their implications for the design of a Demonstration Project with the broader community. A key outcome will be the development of a proposal for such a PrEP project for gay and bisexual men in Toronto. This one-year study is funded through a Catalyst Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and is led by Dr. Darrell Tan of St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto.

Gay Poz Sex
The Poz Prevention Project (GPS: Gay Poz Sex, Finding your own way) will develop an HIV prevention and sexual health promotion strategy for gay and bisexual HIV positive men in a sex positive and community-based research framework. We will develop a confidential, group-based, peer-led program that will support HIV-positive gay and bisexual men in making choices related to their sexual health, mental health, physical health and community’s health. The group intervention utilizes “motivational interviewing”, which is a client-centred approach to developing motivation to make changes in one’s life. We will evaluate this program to determine if it has positive effects in the community.

    This project is a collaboration with Ryerson University, University of Windsor, and the AIDS Bureau (Ontario Ministry of health and Long-Term Care). Year one of the project was funded through a START grant from the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) and years 2-3 have been funded through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). For more information or to participate in the GPS project, contact Rick Julien at 416-340-8484 ext. 277.

    Employment Change and Health Outcomes (ECHO)
    A community-based research study following 520 people living with HIV in Ontario over two years. The purpose of the study is to explore the relationship between employment and health in people living with HIV. ECHO asks participants to report their employment and health status through questionnaires administered face-to-face by peer research assistants in various AIDS service organizations (ASOs) across Ontario. Partnering ASOs include: AIDS Committee of Toronto, Toronto PWA Foundation, Bruce House, AIDS Niagara, Access AIDS Network, AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area, and AIDS Committee of Guelph and Wellington County. Qualitative interviews will also be conducted with 30 of the study participants in April 2011 to better understand the interaction between employment change and health. The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and led by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network.

    ACT Research Day
    ACT Research Day is an annual event for HIV/AIDS service providers, researchers, policy makers, and other community stakeholders. This event is aimed at developing community-based research capacity for front-line staff, and to stimulate community-based HIV knowledge transfer and exchange among researchers and service providers. ACT has organized and hosted the event annually since 2003. A Steering Committee made up of ACT staff and other stakeholders plans and organizes the event. For more information see ACT Research Day.
    Facilitators and barriers to participation in HIV and health research
    This province-wide research study assesses why people participate (or not) in health and HIV research. The study focuses on 5 priority populations – gay men, ACB communities, sex workers, people who use drugs, and Aboriginal communities. The study involves a survey and in-depth interviews with 500 participants from across Ontario. The study is being conducted by a research team that includes university- and community-based researchers, under the leadership of researchers from OHTN, Public Health Ontario and ACT.
    Protective Factors (Gay Strengths Study)
    The study will document and assess the beliefs, practices, and strategies that HIV-negative gay men use to keep themselves safe from HIV infection (i.e., safer sex strategies). This study has the potential to enhance local community cultures of health promotion and to provide tools of immediate value to HIV prevention work. The study will recruit over 300 participants for a baseline survey, with follow-up at 3 months and 6 months. From the baseline survey, 40 men will be selected for indepth interviews at the 3-month and 6-month follow-up. Jessica Cattaneo and Winston Husbands are co-investigators on the study, The project leaders are Dr. Trevor Hart (Ryerson) and Dr. Barry Adam (University of Windsor and OHTN). The project is funded by a grant from CIHR.

    Research and Program Development for ACT
    The research and program development group are currently involved in multiple activities to support ACT staff with program planning, monitoring and evaluation.

    Supporting ACT staff with a logic model approach to work planning
    Three years ago program logic models (PLM) were initiated to upgrade program planning, monitoring and evaluating infrastructure at ACT. The research team continues to work with program staff to assist them in using the PLM template, identifying success indicators, incorporating monitoring and evaluating (M&E) activities into workplans, and designing and implementing M&E activities. Research staff support ACT staff by delivering workshops and other learning opportunities related to PLM.

    Supporting ACT staff with program monitoring and evaluation (M&E)
    The research team works with individual program staff to assist them in designing and implementing M&E activities. In addition, the research team designs and delivers workshops to improve research literacy among program staff (e.g., basic data collection and data management, how to read reviews, etc).

    Bathhouse Counselling Intervention Evaluation
    ACT, in partnership with McMaster University, CAMH, Ryerson University, and the M2Men network, is developing an evaluation and assessment of the Bathhouse Counselling Intervention, Towel Talk, a pilot counselling initiative funded by Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, AIDS Bureau, developed with the support of the M2Men network (M2Men is a Toronto-based network of front-line sexual health/HIV prevention education workers who work with gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men), and supervised through the AIDS Committee of Toronto.

    Towel Talk places a counsellor in three of Toronto’s male bathhouses, in order to provide brief counseling sessions (15 to 30 minutes), as well as referrals to other health and support services, to bathhouse patrons. Towel Talk builds on current outreach programs, by increasing access to psycho-social counseling and other support and community service.

    This study will evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention in order to determine the suitability of bathhouses for brief counselling sessions, as well as aid in the design and development of the pilot program


    Document last updated: August 2014