A summer 2021 update from the BC regional REACH team: I'm Ready, the Treehouse, Making it Work, and more!

This update was originally sent as an email from the BC regional REACH team to BC-area stakeholders on June 29, 2021.

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are keeping well as we move through 2021– what a challenging year it is has been for all. And we here at PAN were definitely called to find new ways of working, using lots of patience and creativity.

We are emailing to update the BC Core team for REACH – the Core Team consists of yourself and other  colleagues and partners who have generously supported our work and have signed on to REACH Nexus grants including:  REACH 3.0; REACHing for Impact – Testing Team Grant; or the CBR Collaborative grants.  We wanted to share highlights of some of the exciting work going on in our region.

REACH launched its I’m Ready HIV self-test research study on June 2nd. I’m Ready participants are able to access up to three, free HIV self-tests and REACH plans to distribute 50,000 HIV self-testing kits across Canada. The program is inviting self-testers to connect to care, to anonymously share their results, and to engage with a trained peer navigator if they need support.

The PAN team has been working in collaboration with a number of community-based organization across the province who have agreed to be pickup sites for participants who don’t want test kits mailed to their house. We have also been working with each of the health authorities to develop care and prevention pathways for participants to use after they test.

I’m Ready is also working in partnership with CBRC’s Test@Home program that is providing HIV self-test to GBT2Q men and non-binary people as part of the Sex Now 2021 study.

We are pleased to announce that we have launched a new resource: the Treehouse! The Treehouse got its name as a place of learning and capacity-building between two trees – a research tree and evaluation tree. This resource includes helpful resources and tools to support community partners and others who are interested in learning about, and doing research and evaluation. Our first iteration of the Treehouse includes several brand-new resources. We will release a new iteration of the Treehouse every six months.

Work continues on PAN’s Making it Work research project-  an Indigenous-focused, community-based research project in what is known as British Columbia, co-led by PAN and the AHA Centre at CAAN. With guidance from people with lived and living experience(s) on the research team, this study explores why community services work well for people, with a particular focus on case management and community development programs and services that use Indigenous service delivery models.

The Making it Work research team has been holding drop-in sessions for the study team members to gather and discuss core tenets of the research, and finalize an initial realist evaluation program theory. Additionally, we have been planning focus groups (called ‘Community Conversations’) with service providers and people who access services at our four case study sites (Positive Living North in Prince George and Smithers; PHS Community Services in Vancouver and Victoria and Central Interior Native Health Society in Prince George). These Community Conversations will begin later in the summer.

The BC People Living with HIV Stigma Index study continues to move forward into the next phases of work.

With the support of funding from the PHSA, on June 11th we held an event called Let’s Talk Stigma Reduction! -- a coming together of diverse individuals, organizations, and communities to discuss stigma from an intersectional perspective as it is experienced/enacted broadly in relation to health and the social determinants of health. Our goal with Let’s Talk Stigma Reduction! was to move out of our silos and provide a space for different sectors and communities working towards stigma reduction to come together. It was a great day to learn from one another and thinking about how to work together and take action to tackle stigma.

Additionally, we are very pleased to report that we made a successful application to the Vancouver Foundation for $300,000 over three years to develop and test an organizational stigma assessment cycle. Based on an accreditation or audit cycle this resource will allow organizations to engage with an evidence-based process to assess internal places to reduce clients’ experiences of stigma while also identifying more systems-level work that is needed. We anticipate beginning work on this project in the fall and will update as it moves forward.
We would love to connect with you regarding any of our ongoing work and to touch base! Please do feel free to reach out with your thoughts, feedback, and comments.

Finally, a big thank you to all of you for the work that you do – and our sincere hopes that you are able to enjoy some rest and relaxation over the summer months.


BC Regional REACH Team:

J. Evin Jones, Cathy Worthington, Janice Duddy, Joanna Mendell, Madeline Gallard