OHTN is committed to impact-focused research that strives to improve the health and lives of people affected by HIV. Impact-focused research, which is rooted in the values of the OHTN:
- Focuses on the needs of those Ontarians most affected by HIV
- Involves those most affected and draws on their knowledge
- Creates evidence for more effective programs and services
Ontario’s HIV/AIDS Strategy directs resources to those populations of Ontarians most affected by HIV:
- people living with HIV;
- gay men and other men who have sex with men;
- African, Caribbean and Black men and women;
- Indigenous men and women;
- Men and women who use drugs;
- Women, including transwomen, who are at risk (e.g., have unprotected sex or share drug equipment with people from the populations listed above)
The OHTN strives to invest in research that will benefit each of these communities in a way that reflects the epidemiology of the epidemic, supporting research leaders who can build research capacity within each community, and soliciting relevant research ideas. Research priorities are identified in regular consultations with the affected communities.
Those discussions are informed by data on the health and well-being of populations living with HIV from the OHTN Cohort Study (OCS), which helps decision makers understand how changes in health care systems may impact their health. Investigations of health systems includes treatment and care issues, such as comorbidities, but it also includes understanding how people engage with care and how social drivers of health influence risk and well-being in affected communities.
2. Involves Knowledge Users
Impact-focused research involves people living with HIV and other research users in meaningful ways that use their knowledge and experience. Their participation is vital to developing research questions, anticipating challenges and translating research findings into programs and services.
People living with HIV and other knowledge users are full members of impact-focused research teams. The OHTN works to enhance relationships between researchers, people living with HIV, community-based agencies, health care providers, government policy makers and educators –building a culture of reciprocity and shared learning. OHTN prioritizes community-engagement and community-based research in its Ontario funding programs, and fosters collaborative research approaches in Ontario and across Canada through REACH 2.0.
To facilitate the meaningful involvement of people living with HIV and other knowledge users, OHTN is committed to education programs, such as University without Walls, and to policies that recruit, train and mentor community members, specifically people living with HIV/AIDS, in all research processes.
3. Creates Evidence for Programs
Impact-focused research aims to have measurable benefits for the populations most affected by HIV in the short to medium term (i.e., 2-5 years).
Because of its focus on impact, the OHTN is particularly interested in funding and conducting research to develop, implement and evaluate HIV prevention, treatment and care interventions (often called program or implementation science).
Community-based research teams and OHTN research leaders who are doing program science need accurate and timely information about the efficacy of current programs and systems, some of which is available from these OHTN initiatives:
- OHESI (the Ontario HIV Epidemiology and Surveillance Initiative) brings together relevant agencies to make information about the epidemiology of HIV in Ontario more accessible.
- The OHTN Cohort Study facilitates further explorations of how health systems and social drivers of health shape outcomes for people living with HIV.
- The Evidence Based Practice Unit helps community based AIDS Service Organizations collect evaluation data about their programs and enhance evidence based programming.
Strong program science studies also involve adapting innovations from other jurisdictions:
- The OHTN Knowledge Synthesis Team helps community-based agencies find the evidence-based answers they need through its Rapid Response Service, and conducts detailed analysis of the existing evidence for particular interventions
- The Indigenous Research Initiative works with Indigenous communities to support the development of culturally safe HIV prevention, treatment and care programs and to share wise practices
- REACH 2.0 and the Community Based Research Collaborative support collaboration and innovation in program science building links between research teams across Canada
In the past five years, OHTN has built new capacity in program science and health systems research. To make the most effective use of limited resources, OHTN collaborates with other Canadian funders such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and CANFAR to support interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary research capable of addressing complex challenges.