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Research highlights from the 22nd Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research (CAHR)

The Canadian Association of HIV/AIDS Research (CAHR) hosted their annual conference in Vancouver on April 11-14, 2013. The CAHR conference is a great opportunity for scientists and community members from across Canada to get together and share new knowledge in the area of HIV and AIDS. The theme for this year’s conference was “Innovations to Address Complex Challenges“.

HIV and stigma

The focus of many sessions was stigmatization and HIV. Richard Elliott chaired an ancillary session related to stigma and HIV in the international setting among men who have sex with men (MSM), female sex workers and people who use drugs.

This session brought home the message that marginalized populations in international settings are often associated with poverty and extreme violence. This stigmatization results in social isolation, creates barriers to accessing HIV testing and results in poor partner notification. In addition, stigma reduces access to health care, resulting in advanced HIV illness.

BCCDC research

BCCDC was well represented at the conference. Daniel Grace presented findings from the “Acute HIV in Gay Men” study, where clients talked about how technological innovations and testing protocols have changed the experience of learning one’s diagnosis. This study showed that MSM have differing psychosocial needs at the time of diagnosis.

Mark Gilbert presented findings from a survey which examined the interest of gay, bisexual and other MSM in Canada in accessing internet-based testing for STI and HIV. This study found that among 7938 participants, 72% intended to use internet-testing. This was especially true for younger participants and those who use the internet to find sex partners.

Darlene Taylor presented on the results of a client survey which showed that 31% of clients attending a low threshold STI clinic report concerns about electronic health records. These clients indicated that they would be less likely to have an HIV test if their health record was kept in a shared electronic health system.

HIV and Aboriginal populations

Dr. Clive Aspin gave an excellent plenary on the impact that HIV has had on indigenous communities around the world. He reported that HIV disproportionately affects marginalized Aboriginal populations, and pointed out that the majority of HIV prevention strategies do not meet the needs of Aboriginal people who incorporate spirituality into their health care. There is a need for community-based groups to develop innovative HIV prevention programs that are culturally appropriate for this vulnerable group.

For more information

This summary highlights only a small proportion of the information presented at CAHR. View the full program, abstract book and videos of some presentations on the CAHR website.

Next year’s conference will be held in St. John’s, Newfoundland from April 23 – 27, 2014.