Canadian AIDS service organizations (ASOs) serve as multi-faceted places of caring work that support the greater involvement of people living with HIV; however, intersecting systems of oppression can detrimentally affect the health of African, Caribbean and Black women living with HIV (ACBWH) and can differently shape their experiences of ASO employment as (un)caring work.
Because She Cares (BSC) is a multi-phased integrated knowledge translation and mobilization (IKTM) project that uses performance-based methods to generate conversation, reflection and action on ASO employment and intersecting systems of oppression faced by ACBWHs. The project evolved from a qualitative study exploring ACBWH experiences of AIDS service and allied organizations (AASOs) employment. This was poetically retold as a spoken word play.
Funded by REACH, BSC plans to take the play across Ontario and host post-performance dialogues (i.e., Kitchen Table Talks) to generate discussions on AASO employment, HIV and intersecting stigmas experienced by ACBWH. We will also explore the catalyzing impact of the play and evaluate its effectiveness for enhancing awareness and engaging change-making dialogue on AASO employment for ACB immigrant women living with HIV.
The Because She Cares project is a community-academic collaboration led by ACB community members and allies who work in AASOs in Ontario.
Initiative Objectives and Goals
An immediate goal of BSC is to use performance and poetic arts for germinating conversations and strategizing the next steps for addressing the care needs of ACB immigrant women living with HIV who are employed in Canadian AASOs.
BSC’s knowledge mobilization methods are intended to benefit ACBW and other people living with HIV (PLHIV) who work in the Canadian HIV-response, as well as ASOs who employ them. The play’s themes concentrate on assuring the care and well-being of ACBWH employees, and these teachings that are intended to resonate with and benefit other populations of people living with HIV, including racialized women, immigrant PLHIVs and ACBWHs.
BSC’s performance methodology contributes to a growing body of participatory arts-based IKTM developed for HIV research. Educational tools developed from this project could also be integrated into curricula where HIV and employment, or community-based research is a component of the course, such as in social work, community health, public health, nursing or other disciplines.
The Role of this Initiative to End the HIV Epidemic
We hope that our project will diffuse the boundaries between social sciences and the arts by pursuing our recommendations to use culturally responsive arts-informed methods that allow research findings to be danced, acted, sung or played out. We think this approach has a unique role in ending the HIV epidemic by supporting the critical role that ACBWHs play in HIV research and activism.
Meaningful engagement with people with lived experience
In addition to BSC’s ACB community leadership, the poetry featured in the play was developed in collaboration with the original study participants (the “Narrators”) and ACB community members and allies, all of whom have worked in AASOs, and have been trained as performers.
Primary target audience
ACBWH (African, Caribbean and Black Women living with HIV) within Canadian AIDS service and allied organizations (clients and employees); ACB and non-ACB ASO employees
Secondary target audience
Health service practitioners who support the Canadian HIV response or who hire ACBWH (social work, community health, public health, nursing, etc.)
In 2020, the BSC Collaborative performed the play and kitchen table talks at two Ontario AASOs amongst 51 audience members who identified themselves as peers (i.e., ACBWH clients and employees) or allies (e.g., ACB and non-ACB employers and employees). Audience members welcomed the use of performance to translate the lived experiences of ACBWH employees. ACBWH participants appreciated how the play celebrated the resilience of ACB immigrant women living with HIV despite the challenges of their work. They also specified elements of the play that illustrated their own lived experiences of anti-Black racism, sexism, and HIV-stigma. AASO-allied participants developed a more empathetic understanding of microaggressions and intersecting oppressions, including those institutionalized within AASO workplaces. For many participants, the kitchen table talks became a “freedom area” to discuss some of the opportunities and tensions of working in AASOs as racialized immigrant women who are living with HIV. Participants recommended delivering BSC to more Ontario AASOs to generate greater awareness and critical reflection of intersecting forms of oppressions, particularly anti-Black racism within AASO workplaces.
In 2021, the BSC Collaborative will focus on translating Because She Cares to an online environment, including a spoken word film series based on similar themes as the play.
"But I also learn from the women after hearing their stories. I put them into practice. ‘Cause they teach me. I teach them. They learn from me." —Valérie, a BSC Collaborative member