Show me the love – a second look

Published 10, Jan, 2012

Megan DePutter from Guelph Ontario looks at research her agency is conducting about barriers to sex among people living with HIV

Show me the love – a second look

Just over a year ago, our Executive Director (Tom Hammond,) and I were returning home from the OHTN research conference, feeling inspired by the number of exciting and innovative research projects being shared. We started to think aloud about the kind of research we would do in our community if we had the means, and we immediately got talking about barriers to sex among people living with HIV.

We’re doing this study to better understand what these barriers are all about and how we can address them as a community and as an agency. We’re trying to understand what the challenges are – such as fears of transmission or criminalization, stigma, disclosure, changes in body image and sex drive, and so on. We’re also aiming to understand resilience, so from those who are in satisfactory relationships and having the kind of sex they want, we hope to learn about how they overcome challenges or navigate through them. Gaining this kind of data will help us drive future programming or community-based initiatives that can help us respond to some of these issues.

The study is a Community Based Research Project, funded by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network. Because this is a community based research project, this means that the community we are studying is playing an important role in the creation and execution of this study. This includes identifying needs, conducting interviews and analysis, guiding the project, and then learning about, sharing, and benefiting from, the data.  PHAs have contributed to an unbelievable amount of research, but we feel that this study is especially relevant to those participating and the data should yield findings that are actionable at an agency and community level.

We’re conducting qualitative face-to-face, semi-structured interviews, and will be conducting a thematic analysis. Part of the analysis will include a member-checking session where previous participants have the opportunity to review the key-themes that have been identified and elaborate on, add to, or correct, preliminary findings. It’s a way of making sure that the data has been interpreted by the researchers in a way that is congruent with the participants’ interpretations.

I should mention that this study is governed by a Working Group that includes me and Tom Hammond as Principle Investigators, one peer research assistant, another community research assistant, and a consultant. We also have an Advisory Committee that includes representation from Public Health, ACCKWA (the AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area), the University of Guelph, and ACG’s Board of Directors and client base. We have three PHAs involved in advising and conducting this study.

After our proposal was approved by the University of Toronto Research Ethics board in the fall, it was all systems go. Despite only using passive recruitment methods, people have been signing up quickly to do this study, which is pretty surprising considering we’re asking people to talk about sex.  I’m not sure if it’s because participants feel passionate about the subject matter, feel comfortable with our peer researcher and agency, or simply need money around the holidays (participants are given $40 for their participation) but I’m very happy to say that within just a few weeks we managed schedule nearly 75% of our interview quota.

I look forward to sharing the findings with PositiveLite, com readers. Please let me know if you would like to participate or have any questions about the study. To hear one participant’s experience of being interviewed you can read Wayne Bristow’s account on Show Me the Love and his related musings on love and sex.