The Heart of CHIWOS:
Peer Research Associates
CHIWOS would not have been possible without the strong, dedicated, and caring Peer Research Associates (PRAs), women living with HIV who were integral to the study team. PRAs were engaged as equal partners in all stages of the research process: from defining the research question and priorities, designing and piloting the survey questions, through to participant recruitment, data collection and analysis, and the sharing of findings (including delivering presentations and workshops, coauthoring manuscripts, and engaging with traditional and online media).
PRAs were dedicated to meeting women "where they were at". Often, they did more than fill out a survey with a participant; they were alongside the women for their journeys through all waves of the survey and provided a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold.
CHIWOS is proud to be one of the first community-based research studies of this size to successfully demonstrate it is not only possible but extremely beneficial to all to engage PRAs as leaders in the research process.
Through this model, the CHIWOS team was able to build capacity of both PRAs and allied researchers, reach a larger number of harder-to-reach women, and develop stronger community partnerships facilitating advocacy and action on findings.
You can read more about CHIWOS' process of hiring, training, and supporting peer research associates here.
AWARD WINNING PRA TEAM
At the 28th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research (2019), the CHIWOS PRA team, which at the time included 33 self-identified women living with HIV, were awarded the CAHR-CANFAR Excellence in Research Award in the Community-Based Research stream.
This award is given yearly, typically to an individual who shows:
Dedication as an active contributor to HIV research
High-quality research achievements through published works, presentations, and active projects
A desire to synthesize, apply and translate past, present, and future research into the advancement of the Canadian and Global movements to end HIV
This represented the first time a group was awarded a CAHR-CANFAR Excellence in Research Award and affirmed the crucial and valuable role people with lived experience play in the success of research teams.