HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and sexually transmitted blood borne illnesses (HIV/HCV/STBBI) is a critical issue and ongoing challenge in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

A lot of progress has been made over the past two decades documenting this epidemic, but research has been limited to individual and group-level risk factors. It has ignored the social, colonial and historical context of Indigenous HIV/HCV/STBBI-related health problems and the unequal access to screening, diagnosis, treatment, care and social support. Another gap is that the research has usually been led by non-Indigenous researchers. The research also hasn’t tended to be followed up with programs to address prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, care and social supports.

More recently, creative new implementation and program science studies – where findings from the research are applied and adapted rather than left simply as data – launched globally have been effective at limiting the HIV epidemic. These studies, however, were not focused on Indigenous peoples in Canada or led by Indigenous people. The Waniska Centre will take these studies and programs and reapply them using an Indigenous Two-eyed Seeing approach, bringing the best of Indigenous and Western perspectives and sciences. 

Place, history and social contexts matter for Indigenous peoples, so Waniska’s research will be land- and culture-based. It will develop programs and research projects that will support Indigenous communities and academics, and train the next generation of Indigenous scholars, practitioners and community members in HIV/HCV/STBBI research and converting that knowledge from the research into practical, helpful information for communities and other academics. 

The Waniska Centre will develop partnerships with communities and community-based organizations that will help tackle HIV/HCV/STBBI inequities. The Centre already has broad connections in both provinces, nationally and internationally, both in community and among Indigenous and allied academics. 

Next: Aspirations