U of S researcher receives grant for on-reserve treatment services for HIV and other blood-borne infections
- EFN Staff | December 28, 2017
A researcher from the University of Saskatchewan has been awarded a $2-million team grant by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to refine and expand an on-reserve diagnosis and treatment program for HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and sexually transmitted blood-borne infections.
U of S clinician and researcher Dr. Stuart Skinner, along with close to 50 scholars, clinicians, policymakers and knowledge users, will be involved in the five-year, multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral project, which totals $4.65 million when in-kind contributions are included. Nearly half the participants are Indigenous community members, chiefs, and people who’ve experienced the infections.
“We’re pretty excited about the grant success,” said Dr. Skinner in a media release. “We wanted to build a First Nations-led initiative that met the local community needs and integrated western and Indigenous approaches.”
First Nations communities in Saskatchewan have Canada’s highest rate of HIV infections – more than seven times the national average – and HCV rates that are five times the national average. Women are over-represented in HIV infections among Saskatchewan First Nations at 40 per cent, compared to 22 per cent of all cases nationally.
The goal of the new project is to work closely with First Nations communities in expanding the reach of a community-designed and managed HIV diagnosis and treatment program called Know Your Status (KYS) and also includes HCV and other blood-borne infections.
Skinner has been working since 2011 with the Big River First Nation, which developed KYS because many community members were unable to access treatment from specialists in larger care centres. This has expanded further into HIV and HCV testing and treatment over the past six years to 10 outreach clinics.
“The timelines will be far faster than we thought, because the communities are very passionate,” said Dr. Skinner. “If they are ready to move forward, we will figure out how to support them any way we can.”
Among the team members are five physicians from the U of S College of Medicine – Megan Clark, Siddharth Kogilwaimath, Sarah Liskowich, Stephen Sanche and Kris Stewart – as well as Dr. Ibrahim Khan, medical health officer for Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) in Saskatchewan. JoLee Sasakamoose, director of the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC), will advise on Indigenous methodologies, including culturally appropriate data collection. Researchers from McGill University and the universities of Toronto, Manitoba, Calgary and Manitoba will also be participating.
“Through this project we will be able to show just how much resilience, strengths and assets there are in Indigenous communities. I know that Dr. Skinner, his team and the communities will do some wonderful research,” said Carrie Bourassa, scientific director of CIHR’s Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health. “Given that it is implementation research, hopefully they are going to provide a model that can be used across Saskatchewan and in other parts of Canada.”
The new program aims to expand physicians’ knowledge and capacity to treat infectious diseases, and develop primary care capacity in local communities. The grant money will be used primarily to implement community-based and designed HIV, HCV and related programming, with Dr. Skinner acting as co-ordinator.