In Show Me the Love Part Two, I wrote about the experience of conducting community-based research for the first time, and what it meant for us at ACG to build capacity in our agency.
But enough about what I think. In the videos* below, you’ll hear some different perspectives - one from an HIV positive Advisory Committee member (Iris), and one from our Peer Research Assistant (Tim). In these clips, Iris and Tim answered questions about their thoughts and experiences with the research project.
While watching these videos, I noticed a few interesting things. One was that Tim describes the interviews as an opportunity for research participants to give meaning to traumatic life events that are essentially without meaning or purpose. While working in Positive Prevention, I took notice of how people give meaning to traumatic life events by using what they’ve learned to help others. I think this desire is very strong and can be an important part of resiliency in difficult life situations. I had not considered how being a research participant could contribute to this, but hearing Tim express it this way was quite profound. Research participants in a community-based research study are using their voices and experiences – and quite honestly, dredging up painful moments from the past – to help mobilize efforts to help other people dealing with similar situations.
Tim also spoke about how community-based research is different from other kinds of research – for example by its immediacy, its ability to put findings into action in a more timely manner – and the fact that knowledge translation and exchange helps to disseminate the findings to be accessed and utilized by anyone, including PHAs. For us, this included a “Dinner & Discussion” night at Babel Fish Bistro in Guelph, strictly given for ACG clients and research participants. It was a great opportunity to share the findings, and I also spent some time explaining research terms for people who may not have had past exposure to research lingo.
In the video clip with Iris, we asked about the impact that “Social Hour” has had. Watch her face light up when she expresses how much she loves her social hour! To me, this expresses just how much impact a simple change can have. A scheduled appointment to sit down, have a sandwich and coffee, and chat. For the participants of this drop-in, these weekly meetings have clearly led to building supportive networks, laughter, and friendship. What can be more important than that?
I’d like to end by noting that this is really the beginning, not the end. We undertook this research to better understand the problem. Mission accomplished. But what we also wanted to know what programs or services could help address this problem. This is less clear. We have made a few changes already, and taken steps to address key issues, but addressing big problems like fear of transmission, internalized stigma, or the lack of a strong gay community in Guelph are complex and will take time. At the Dinner & Discussion, one participant asked: “how will this help me as an HIV+, older gay man who’s looking for sexual intimacy?” Good question. Well, like I said – this is the beginning. It is my hope that we can collaborate more, bring this discussion wider - between PHAs and service providers - to develop further solutions and creative program design that can help us address these barriers.
Thank you to Iris, Tim, and all those who participated in the research!
*Many thanks to Guy McLoughlin for doing the filming and editing.