Research Directions

The research directions described below emerged from discussions among the ACT Research Advisory Committee (RAC) between December 2006 and May 2007. Members of the RAC included AIDS service organization (ASO) staff, researchers, policy makers and funders. The four directions are consistent with ACT’s mission and values, and also with the spirit or directions of ACT’ strategic plan.

Responding to critical program development needs
ACT’s programs and services cover the general areas of (a) support for people infected and affected by HIV and (b) HIV prevention education and outreach. ACT’s research program addresses the organization’s commitment to evidence-informed program development. Consequently, ACT will engage in research that addresses crucial gaps in the knowledge base related to the content and delivery of current and prospective programs and services. In pursuing this theme, program staff will work with the research team to identify research opportunities, the role that ACT may play in new research initiatives, and opportunities for partnerships with other researchers or institutions.

Integrating support services for PHAs and HIV prevention
Traditionally, support services for PHAs and HIV prevention are structured and implemented as two separate areas of work and responsibility. In ASOs, support services are designed to help PHAs cope with their infection, and include a broad range of services. HIV prevention is usually interpreted as primary prevention, and usually addresses the needs of the general population that is not infected, or may be at risk of becoming infected. However, evidence is accumulating (e.g., ACT’s case management research) that ‘support services’ have benefits for primary and secondary prevention. Research in this theme will explore the links between support and prevention, and identify the conceptual and practical implications of integration for programs and services.

Understanding current and emerging needs of the people infected, affected and at risk for HIV; and assessing how to meet those needs
Needs change in scope and complexity as the epidemiology of HIV changes, and also as service providers, researchers, and policy makers improve their ability to deliver on basic needs. For example, improved therapies have resulted in an increased proportion of long-term survivors, whose needs for services are different from people who are newly infected. Research in this theme will identify the service needs of different infected and affected population groups (e.g., MSM, women, youth, long-term survivors, people from Africa and the Caribbean, seniors etc), assess the extent to which service providers, policy makers and researchers are meeting those needs, and assess how needs can be met effectively and efficiently.

Enacting GIPA in ASO work and research
The ideas that are now recognized as the GIPA principle (the greater involvement of people living with HIV and AIDS) originated among PHAs in the early 1980s. In 1994, 42 countries agreed to support GIPA at all levels. This commitment was reiterated in 2001 and 2006 when member countries of the UN endorsed GIPA. The principle embodied in GIPA is that PHAs must be involved substantively in decision-making at all levels of the response to HIV and AIDS, and this involvement will enhance the quality and effectiveness of the response. Though PHAs are involved extensively in the response to HIV and AIDS in Canada, there is much uncertainty about whether this involvement is uniformly substantive. Moreover, stakeholders struggle with designing and implementing appropriate mechanisms to support PHA involvement, and to ensure that involvement adequately captures the diversity of people infected with or affected by HIV. Research in this theme will examine and evaluate the nature and extent of PHA involvement in local and regional programs, policy and research, and evaluate mechanisms for meaningful involvement among the diversity of populations infected and affected by HIV.

Updated: Oct 24, 2007