The Indigenous Research Initiative aims to work in a good way with and within Indigenous communities to support research and research capacity building. The IRI was established in 2014 (see history) and relies on the advice of the Indigenous Research Initiative Steering Committee in all of our work. We aim to enhance the ability of Indigenous communities and agencies to deliver services that:

  • Address HIV prevention or the prevention of other STBBIs
  • Build resilience and knowledge within community around sexual health issues
  • Reduce stigma or increase social and health supports for Indigenous people living with HIV

The Indigenous Research Initiative has four primary functions:

1) To support research conducted within Indigenous communities

Each year, funding opportunities are made available which could be used by Indigenous communities to evaluate existing wellness programs and services, or to develop and test new approaches. Typical funding organizations include the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Positive Action Canada Indigenous HIV/AIDS Initiative (ViiV), and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

Staff from the OHTN Indigenous Research Initiative will work with Indigenous researchers and communities to develop proposals, to help identify appropriate academic partners where needed, and to provide ongoing support to projects as negotiated through the proposal development process.

Examples of projects developed and funded in this way include A cultural intervention for Indigenous youth.

We invite conversation about the research goals of your community and how OHTN might help. Please contact Jessica Demeria at 416-642-6486 x2215.

2) To fund research within Indigenous Communities

With advice from the Indigenous Research Initiative Steering Committee, OHTN has developed specific funding opportunities for researchers working collaboratively within Indigenous communities. Currently, two funding models are being supported.

A) Indigenous Learning Pathways to Prevention (ILLP) Awards

The Indigenous Learning Pathways to Prevention (ILLP) pilot funding program was the Initiative’s first funded program launched in March 2015. This pilot program provides resources to community-based agencies serving indigenous communities in order to evaluate existing HIV/STBBI programs and services, or to adapt wellness programs currently addressing another aspect of health to include a focus on HIV/STBBIs. At the same time, it offers students an opportunity to gain valuable experience and training in community based research practices that are methodologically sound, culturally safe and developed in partnership with Indigenous communities to ensure relevance. This pilot project is now being evaluated. Two $30,000 projects were funded through the pilot program and are just completing their funding period:

B) New Investigator Awards

OHTN partners with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to provide salary support to new investigators within the first five years of their independent research careers. OHTN supports investigators conducting solution-focused, community-engaged work relevant to one of the populations in Ontario most affected by HIV. Anita Benoit is currently funded for work relevant to Indigenous communities.

For more information about Indigenous Research Initiative funding initiatives, please contact the Indigenous Research Initiatives Coordinator, Jessica Demeria at 416-642-6486 x2215.

3) Sharing HIV Information and Program Approaches

The Indigenous Research Initiative works with Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers to create and promote evidence-based resources about the impact of HIV and other STBBIs in Indigenous communities. Here are some examples of work in this area:

  • The Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association Learning Institute – This 2016 Forum focused on Indigenous HIV Care and aimed to strengthen the role that nurses can play in HIV care. It received funding from both OHTN and Health Canada. In addition to presentations from Indigenous researchers and clinicians, participants heard firsthand life paths for two Indigenous HIV-positive individuals.
  • The Current State of the HIV Epidemic among Indigenous People in Ontario was first released in May 2014, used existing data sources to take a first-of its-kind look at the impact of HIV on Indigenous people in Ontario.
  • An overview of the Current State of the HIV Epidemic among Indigenous People in Ontario report is now available. intended for services providers inside and outside the Indigenous community was produced in 2015, offering a readable summary of the full report.
  • The Inside and Out conference focused on HIV prevention, treatment and care for current and former prisoners. With the over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons, providing care to Indigenous prisoners in a good way was a focus

4) Challenging colonization and promoting OHTN’s respectful engagement with Indigenous Peoples

A key responsibility of the Indigenous Research Initiative is to build relationships between the OHTN and Indigenous communities and agencies that enable research and research capacity building. The ultimate goal is to improve HIV and STTBI prevention, engagement and care for Indigenous peoples in Ontario. This includes collaborative work and consultation, but it also includes a thorough examination of OHTN’s own processes, and the way that embedded colonialism systemically creates barriers to working in a good way. The OHTN strives to develop capacity building and research programs that embody the OCAP principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession and ethical research principles specific to Metis and Inuit communities. Examples of work in this area include:

  • Facilitation of cultural sensitivity training for OHTN staff and Board of Directors
  • Work with the CHIWOS (Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort) research team to further strength-based and culturally-grounded research for the wellbeing of Indigenous women living with/at risk of HIV
  • Funding and support of the Wise Funding Practice study which sought to identify concrete ways for funding processes to support Indigenous research approaches and worldviews. This research is now being used to shape the next iteration of the Indigenous Learning Pathways to Prevention (ILLP) award A resource guide on these approaches for other organizations is also planned.

For more information about the Indigenous Research Initiatives, please contact the Coordinator of Indigenous Research Initiatives Jessica Demeria.