A snapshot of the state of community based HIV research in 1998 just as the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS was getting underway.
Community involvement in research activities has been evolving along with developments in organized community action on HIV/AIDS since the onset of the epidemic (Myers & Allman, 1995). Even so, the capacities of communities to develop valuable local knowledge about HIV and AIDS have remained under-recognized until recently, even amongst organizations themselves. For their part, community organizations have been apt to see direct action on HIV prevention, health promotion, treatment and support as their main priority.
But attitudes about community-based research are shifting. A clear sign came from an event held at the XI International Conference on AIDS in Vancouver that drew more than forty communitybased research practitioners from every region of the world. Up until that point, most participants had felt themselves to be working in isolation with possibly idealistic notions about research initiated and controlled by communities. In the two days that followed, that diverse group of community researchers discovered their experience was global. Their meeting produced a powerful and coherent statement (Trussler, 1996; see appendix for text of statement) on a world-wide community-based research strategy for HIV/AIDS which is still just beginning to unfold.
In Canada, calls for action on community-based research appeared during the consultation process toward renewal of the National AIDS Strategy for a third phase. Those discussions were widespread and included suggestions and recommendations from a variety of perspectives: research professionals, national stakeholders and community representatives alike. The Strategy renewal consultation process was indeed the first clear indication that both research professionals and community workers valued knowledge development activities at the community level enough to move the idea toward a strategic plan.
The purpose of this document is to organize a conceptual framework for such a strategy: to build the capacities of communities to conduct needed research on HIV/AIDS.