Developing a psychoeducational support group for serodiscordant couples: A collaborative, participatory approach

Community-Based Research Award

AIDS Committee of Toronto

Research Team: Jocelyn Watchorn, Celeste Bilbao-Joseph, Jessica Cattaneo, Scott Bowler; Charlotte Chagoya; Michael Hazelton; James Myslik; Andrew Ross; Andrew Eaton.

What is this project about?

This project was designed to better understanding the support service needs of serodiscordant couples (one partner living with HIV, the other HIV negative) in Toronto and to develop, implement and test a psychoeducational serodiscordant couple support group. Participants took part in a 10-week closed group support session for couples and were part of the participatory evaluation process. The project aimed to generate a set of recommendations regarding the implementation of group programming for serodiscordant couples.

As well, the research looked at the usefulness of using participatory approaches for this type of evaluation, and aimed to increase the capacity of current and future frontline service providers and people living with and/or affected by HIV to engage in a participatory evaluation process.


Overall participants felt that this limited-time support group was valuable, although not sufficient to meet the needs of serodiscordant couples. Participants felt that the group was an opportunity to breaking isolation, to connect with others in similar situations and to learn from others experiences, as well as reflect on and appreciate their own relationship dynamics. The participants also reported gaining knowledge about specific HIV topics.

The project produced extensive feedback on structuring such psychoeducational support groups as well as a strong recommendation that more such groups are needed. In addition, the research recommended that negative partners should be integrated into existing community services for people living with HIV and that specific support programs, such as counselling and support groups, should be created for negative partners. Better communications about existing programs was also advised. As well, participants recommended that AIDS Service Organizations create more social spaces specifically for serodiscordant couples.

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