SHN Research Institute researchers awarded CIHR grant to address HIV care disparities in racialized communities

Scarborough Health Network (SHN) Research Institute researchers have been awarded a highly coveted research grant by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to spearhead initiatives aimed at addressing disparities in HIV care in Scarborough. The funding will support the first in a three-phase project aimed at informing public health policies, improving intervention programs, and driving forward the development of HIV services in communities where they are lacking. This work creates the opportunity for SHN to change the landscape through helping those who have been left out of advances in HIV care.

Why is this research important to Scarborough?

Progress in medicine has transformed HIV from a death sentence into a manageable chronic condition over the past few decades, yet issues persist in accessing essential care services, especially within racialized communities like Scarborough. The barriers that stand in the way of that access lead many individuals to seek care elsewhere or delay treatment.

Research that helps remove these barriers results in better access to care. For example, when patients from Scarborough do not have to travel downtown for care, they save personal expense, difficulty and time. This promotes a sense of pride and comfort in knowing the care they need is available right here in Scarborough. This kind of research also helps prevent disease among more people, and leads to better health outcomes through earlier access to treatment for those who need it. Having fewer and less severe cases of HIV benefits the entire community, with less dependence on hospital and community health services, and a decrease in the the rippling mental, social and economic effects associated with high rates of the disease.

Interested in helping the SHN Research Institute bring more exciting research projects like this to life?

The solutions generated by this work will form a healthcare model, grown right here in Scarborough, that can be applied by other healthcare providers in highly-diverse, racialized parts of Canada to identify and address their own deficits in HIV care.

Dr. Adriana Carvalhal, Scientific Director, SHN Research Institute

Understanding the causes: A critical first step

The grant funds an investigation of the multifaceted barriers that stand in the way of proper HIV prevention, treatment, and support services, by mapping where and understanding why these barriers exist.

Leading this project as principal investigator is Dr. Adriana Carvalhal, Scientific Director of SHN Research Institute, who brings a background in the study of the complexities that surround HIV care, which include stigma, mental health concerns, limited social support, and access to stable housing and transportation.

“Understanding the causes of the barriers that exist is a crucial first step in developing targeted interventions that can bridge the gaps in care,” noted Dr. Carvalhal. The research initiative will gather experts from various perspectives—clinical, academic, and community—to comprehensively examine these issues.

“Our objectives include understanding the existing literature, evaluating successful HIV programs in primary care, and building strong partnerships. This is important work, and we have recruited some of the top names in HIV research to join our outstanding team,” emphasized Dr. Carvalhal.

This latest grant represents another huge step forward for SHN Research Institute and the future of research in Scarborough. Stay tuned for updates and progress on this project and the many more to come.