HIV-Positive Aboriginal Women, in partnership with Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) and the University of Victoria, has received $1.2 million in funding from Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health to develop a culturally-grounded and strength-based intervention for HIV-positive Aboriginal women.
Visioning Health II (VH II) builds on the results of Visioning Health I (VH I): an arts-informed and community-based participatory research project that engaged HIV positive Aboriginal women as co-researchers to explore their experience of “health,” rather than illness, and the supporting role culture and gender plays.
Findings from this study revealed that health for HIV positive Aboriginal women is holistic, relational, and fundamentally about “feeling connected.” The study found that the process of participating in this project was, in itself, health enhancing. As one co-researcher reported, Visioning Health is “damn good medicine.”
Visioning Health II is designed to counteract the predominance of research that highlights Aboriginal women’s needs, risks, vulnerabilities, and deficits by emphasizing the multiple ways in which HIV-positive Aboriginal women thrive, not just survive.
Visioning Health II will enable the research to expand to seven sites across Canada to better reflect the diversity of Aboriginal communities and to co-create new knowledge on the meaning of health for HIV positive Aboriginal women that resists the pan-Aboriginal approach typically taken when describing, exploring and addressing their experiences.
“The heart of Visioning Health II is the HIV positive Aboriginal women who are partners in the study. We are so excited to see women bringing strength to the circle by picking up their medicine bundles.” Doris Peltier, Women’s Leadership Coordinator of CAAN and co-‐creator of Visioning Health. “Through this study, women who participate are discovering they are the medicine bundle, a gift of solution to their community. The medicine bundle represents our spiritual path.”
The goals of Visioning Health II are to conduct further research to capture knowledge on the meaning of health and how it intersects with gender and culture for HIV positive Aboriginal women, and to develop and test the Visioning Health model as a health promoting intervention.
Given the results of Visioning Health I, the research team anticipates that Visioning Health II could lead to significant changes to policy and programming that would focus more on strengths instead of deficits, thereby increasing women’s engagement in their own health. Women are central to community building and nation building, so the ripple effect of this study is expected to be far reaching.