Developing Research From Within: Building Research Ideas with the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (OAHAS) Staff

Research Team: Doe O’Brien-Teengs (PhD candidate, Lakehead University) working with the host agency the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (Oahas)

What is this project about?

The Developing Research from Within project brought together Oahas staff in order to conceptualize and prioritize research ideas regarding HIV and Indigenous peoples in Ontario. This consultation was facilitated by Doe O’Brien-Teengs, currently a PhD student at Lakehead University.

This project put research with Indigenous people into the hands of Indigenous peoples. It encouraged conversation and input from Indigenous people who have frontline experience providing HIV prevention and support services about the research priorities for their community. It also helped build skills within this group to understand and use research methods and findings.

To inform this conversation, Doe O’Brien-Teengs conducted a literature review to identify gaps where Canadian research activity was not addressing the impact of HIV in Indigenous communities, and to identify best practices in Indigenous research methods.

Following the consultation with Oahas, priorities were also reviewed in community forums and by an Indigenous community-based advisory committee. Work was begun on developing a proposal for the highest ranked priority.


Literature review – The literature review identified several significant gap areas where the volume of Canadian research did not reflect the impact of HIV on segments of the community. In particular:

  • Only 13% of published research explored HIV prevention or care issues for Indigenous women although 48% of new infections are in women
  • Only 10% of published research focuses on injection drug use although an estimated 60% of new infections in Indigenous communities are associated with injection drug use
  • Only 9% of research focuses on the needs of Two-Spirited Indigenous men or other Indigenous men who have sex with men; prevention research for this community is absent
  • There is no research on the care and prevention needs of Indigenous trans people

The review also revealed many common findings of studies focusing on Indigenous peoples and HIV particularly about the negative impact of historic trauma and ongoing oppression, as well as the value on interventions rooted in traditional culture. Further literature review work developed from this project focused on Aboriginal HIV prevention in Canada and the United States between 1996 and 2015 and is currently being submitted for publication.

Research priority setting – Four research priorities were ultimately identified through dialogue with Oahas staff and subsequent review and revision with the community advisory committee.

  1. Do Indigenous women relate to the Indigenous concepts of non-interference, respect and compassion – sometimes represented inaccurately as harm  reduction – more than mainstream harm reduction practices?
  2. An examination of Indigenous transgender people’s prevention needs
  3. An examination of Indigenous injection drug use in Ontario
  4. An examination of HIV testing approaches for Indigenous people in Ontario

Work has begun to develop a research proposal for funding on the first of these priorities.


This project was supported by a $30,000 Indigenous Learning Pathways to Prevention (ILLP) Award. This ILLP program provides resources to community-based agencies serving indigenous communities in order to evaluate or adapt existing services relevant to HIV/STTBIs while offering students an opportunity to gain valuable experience and training in community based research practices within Indigenous communities.

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