ACT’s Current Research Activities

Reports from previous ACT research studies.

Research and Knowledge Development Activities

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
Research with a Purpose
Long-term Survivors
What's In It For Me?
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)
iSpeak: Heterosexual African, Caribbean and Black men and HIV

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

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.

Research with a purpose: understanding ACT’s health promotion priorities and identifying program options

ACT health promotion priorities – stigma, mental health and HIV across the lifespan - are intended to guide and inform the direction and content of ACT’s programs and services over the course of the current Strategic Plan (2010-2015). In 2011, with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), ACT initiated, Research with a Purpose, a research project to build ACT’s knowledge and evidence base about each priority area and facilitate evidence-informed program development.

Research with a Purpose included the production of a number of documents, including:

    · HIV Across the Lifespan: Synthesis Paper
    · HIV and Mental Health: Synthesis Paper
    · HIV-related Stigma: Synthesis Paper
    · Research with a Purpose Interpretations: Stigma, Mental Health and HIV Across the Lifespan
    · Stakeholder Report: Stigma, Mental Health, HIV Across the Lifespan

Click here for more information on this project, and to access our Research with a Purpose documents.

Long-term survivors: developing research to address the needs, challenges, and priorities of long-term survivors
As HIV/AIDS shifts from a progressive and terminal disease to a chronic and episodic illness, service providers and clinicians face challenges in understanding the changing needs of the diverse population of long-term survivors. This collaboration between the AIDS Committee of Toronto and Casey House Hospice will develop a knowledge base that can guide and support research and program development by identifying the multiple issues related to long-term survivorship of HIV/AIDS. The objectives of the project are to:
  • undertake exploratory research on long-term survivorship of HIV/AIDS;
  • engage long-term survivors in developing a community-based research process;
  • develop a multi-stakeholder research team and agenda for future research; and
  • undertake knowledge translation and exchange (KTE) activities to build understanding study findings and support program development

The methods will include: focus groups and interviews with long-term survivors, consultations with other stakeholders, and a literature review and environmental scan to assess the state of the relevant knowledge base and the program and service environment. In addition to developing relevant research, the project partners will also share the results a broad range of service providers to generate dialogue related to program, clinical care, and policy issues. This project is funded through a Catalyst Grant from CIHR.

What's In It For Me?
This project will support the development of research literacy and capacity for PHAs, with the long-term goal of enabling them to better engage in, direct, and critically examine knowledge production in the field of HIV/AIDS. The objectives of this project are to:
  • learn from PHAs about their different experiences, interests, and questions related to HIV/AIDS research;
  • develop, implement, and assess a curriculum and series of workshops that build research literacy among PHAs and can be shared with other organizations; and
  • connect PHAs, community-based organizations, and HIV/AIDS researchers through their participation in the workshop series, and create a learning environment that allows for dialogue between service providers, researchers and PHAs.

The major project activities include: (1) development of the workshop curriculum based on focus groups with PHAs, consultations with researchers, and an environmental scan and literature search to ascertain models of similar initiatives and develop content for the curriculum; and (2) implementation and evaluation of a series of six workshops led by researchers or PHA with expertise and experience on the specific topics to be addressed. This initiative is funded through a Meetings, Planning and Dissemination grant from CIHR.

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. ACT Research Day 2011 will be held on May 26, 2011. 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.
    iSpeak: Heterosexual African, Caribbean and Black men and HIV
    African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) people account for a disproportionately high share of the numbers of people in Ontario living with HIV, and ACB men are particularly affected. The overall goal of this project is to engage ACB heterosexual men in the response to HIV, and engage service providers and other stakeholders to address the HIV-related needs and circumstances of ACB heterosexual men. The objectives are to:
      1. understand the HIV-related needs, challenges and priorities of ACB heterosexual men, and possible strategies to address them;
      2. understand the current program environment, identify gaps in the knowledge base, and determine research needs to support programs and policy;
      3. develop a research team representing primary stakeholder interests;
      4. develop further research to address the most pressing priorities and research gaps; and
      5. initiate a process to strengthen program and policy responses related to ACB heterosexual men among ACCHO members.

    The project activities include: focus groups with heterosexual ACB men and service providers who work with ACB communities; interviews with researchers; and a consultation that brings together all the above stakeholders to identify research and other strategies to address the needs, challenges and priorities. This project is funded by CIHR (Catalyst Grant) and the Social Research Centre in HIV Prevention (SRC).



    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: January 2013