Reprinted from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research newsletter courtesy of Renée Masching

Highlighting Aboriginal Researchers Doing Aboriginal Research

Renée Masching is the Director of Research and Policy at the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network and has also received CIHR-IAPH funding for a number of projects. Whether as Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator, Renée’s work often originates from community involvement and includes Knowledge Translation and Exchange in reaching culturally-appropriate results. As well, many of Renée’s projects fully engage Aboriginal youth, women and Elders in research direction, development and analysis – reflecting the concepts of Two-Eyed Seeing and Aboriginal Ways of Knowing. For instance, the project titled Young Eagles Soar: Aboriginal Youth Leaders in Community Based Research is a youth-driven catalyst initiative which examines research priorities related to HIV peer education as identified by Aboriginal youth, and further develops leadership roles for Aboriginal youth to inform and engage in future research regarding culturally specific HIV education for Aboriginal youth.

As much of Renée’s work focuses on Aboriginal peoples living with and affected by HIV/ AIDS, the research regularly examines the inadequacies of Western methods of care and service as applied to Aboriginal populations. The project Stable Homes, Strong Families: Housing and Health for Aboriginal Peoples Living with HIV and AIDS identifies and addresses gaps in housing options to form a culturally appropriate response to Aboriginal housing needs in the context of HIV. Somewhat similarly, Family Matters: Informing a family-based model of care with Aboriginal families affected by HIV engages Aboriginal families affected by HIV to identify Aboriginal-specific recommended solutions toward the development of programmatic intervention models that address and support all members of a family affected by HIV.

Research to Action: Aboriginal Health Research to Aboriginal Health Practice

On April 10 at the Dr. Peter Centre, as a pre-conference event to the 22nd Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research (CAHR 2013) held April 11-14 in Vancouver, IAPH Scientific Director, Malcolm King, attended the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network’s (CAAN) screening of a brief video highlighting the results of their current research project, Alcohol Use by Aboriginal Persons Living with HIV/AIDS and Its Association with Access to Care and Treatment. This project exemplifies how Aboriginal people’s health research can stem from community-based direction and involvement to develop into methods of care and service delivery rooted in Aboriginal Ways of Knowing.

This research is a prime example of a project undertaken in partnership between two Aboriginal organizations; CAAN and the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation (NNAPF). The success of these organizations in developing and executing this project will hopefully inspire Pathways research groups like suicide research teams to link up with either CAAN or NNAPF as partners in their research.

This study examines the association between alcohol use and access to services from the perspectives of both Aboriginal persons living with HIV and AIDS (APHAs) and Service Providers (SPs). The findings will be used to better inform health service delivery and guide future research priorities. The research team is comprised of scholars, community-based Peer Research Associates and service delivery people and is guided by Elder Cliff Thomas. The two Peer Research Associates were HIV-positive, street-involved people, who received training throughout the project; a true success story in community involvement, engagement, and capacity building.

The idea for this project originated with a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Catalyst Grant in 2006, and funding to carry it out was secured in 2008 with a CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity Operating Grant through the HIV/AIDS Community-based Research Initiative. A CIHR Dissemination Events grant was awarded in 2013.

“This research has resulted in new knowledge regarding health service delivery and culturally competent care and treatment for APHAs who use alcohol or are perceived to be using alcohol. The policy and practice implications presented in this report can contribute significantly toward increased well-being of APHAs and their communities, improved partnerships between APHAs and non-Aboriginal health care systems and providers, and the growing body of international research involving Indigenous people and HIV and AIDS.” (CAAN, 2013)