weSpeak: Reducing HIV vulnerabilities and promoting resilience among self-identified heterosexual African, Caribbean and Black Men in Ontario

Research Team: Josephine P. Wong (nominated principal investigator), Winston Husband (principal investigator), Josephine Etowa (principal investigator), Isaac Luginaah (principal investigator), Francisca Omorodion (principal investigator), Alexander Asamoah, Kenneth Fung, Carl James, Jelani Kerr, Erica Lawson, Hugues Loemba, Henry Luyombya, Lance McCready, Frank McGee, Paul Mkandawire, Wesley Oakes, Fanta Ongoiba, Valérie Pierre-Pierre, Maurice Poon, Wangari Tharao, Zhaida Uddin, Mandana Vahabi, Charmaine Williams. Collaborators: Racquel Bremmer, Garfield Durrant, Ahmed Bechir Habré, Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco, Brian Lester, Barbara MacPherson, Khaled Salam

What is this research about?

In Ontario, African Caribbean and Black (ACB) people have been especially vulnerable to HIV. Those who are infected with HIV through heterosexual contact account for almost 20% all HIV-positive people in the province, even though as a whole ACB people make up less than 5% of the province’s total population. It is estimated that men account for almost 60% of ACB people infected with HIV through heterosexual contact; but they are less likely than women to be tested and diagnosed. Although ACB men are often judged in accordance with damaging stereotypes, a pilot study (iSpeak) undertaken by some members of this team has showed that they are resourceful and resilient about the issues that impact their health and wellbeing, and thoughtful about being more involved in community responses to HIV.

weSpeak is a 5-year program of research and related activities with African Caribbean and Black men to enhance their appreciation of the conditions that help HIV to spread, strengthen their commitment to HIV prevention and consolidate community networks to end HIV and promote health among ACB communities. Researchers, service providers, policy makers and community members in London, Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor will work together to implement the weSpeak program in their cities, mobilizing heterosexual African Caribbean and Black men and communities to identify and address conditions that contribute to HIV-related health disparities. Through meaningful community engagement, rigorous research, and integrative knowledge translation, this program of research will:
• raise heterosexual ACB men’s awareness about how they may be vulnerable to HIV;
• reduce vulnerability to HIV and strengthen resilience in ACB communities;
• strengthen skills, abilities and knowledge among heterosexual ACB men, community agencies, researchers and policy makers for responding effectively to HIV; and
• mobilize heterosexual ACB men, community agencies, researchers and policy makers to develop and implement effective HIV responses in ACB communities through programs, research and policy.

OHTN Support:

This project is supported by a $1.5 million team grant awarded through the CIHR Advancing Boys’ and Men’s Health Research initiative in 2015. Through this initiative, the CIHR HIV/AIDS Research Initiative and the Institute of Gender and Health worked with OHTN, to address the challenges and disparities that affect men’s health in this community. OHTN contributes two thirds of the funding for this award, totally $200,000 each year for five years (2015-2019).

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