About the Unit

The Vision
The HIV Studies Unit recognizes the need to expand the boundaries for research beyond discipline-focused approaches and seeks to create a broad holistic understanding of HIV issues using individual, interpersonal, social, cultural, and structural perspectives.

The mission of the HIV Studies Unit is to improve the effectiveness of HIV prevention, interventions, services, and policies, and to promote health among infected and affected individuals and communities in Ontario, Canada, and internationally. This mission is fulfilled through research, graduate and undergraduate education, continuing education and community service.

Goals of the Unit

The HIV Studies Unit conducts research in order to provide new insights into the issues related to the HIV epidemics. The Unit conducts research into the evolution of the epidemic, individual social structural drivers of risk and non-risk behaviours, sexuality and sexual health, drug use related to HIV, and the need and effectiveness of related interventions, services, and policies. The HIV Studies Unit acknowledges that there are many viable models for research. It seeks to work in collaboration with faculty in other universities, community agencies, health professionals, and policy makers in the establishment of effective and productive research and education partnerships. The Unit’s research is characterised by its:

  • focus on marginalised and difficult to research populations
  • emphasis on applied research
  • comparative and multi-method study design
  • multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives
  • critical perspectives on public health
  • qualitative and quantitative methods
  • community engagement and community university collaboration
  • dissemination of information to multiple stakeholders

Graduate Education
The HIV Studies Unit provides a rich environment for graduate students to undertake masters and doctoral level education. Core members of the Unit hold appointments in the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences and Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation. The majority of students who have undertaken HIV-related studies within the Unit have been affiliated with either the social and behavioural health sciences or epidemiology and biostatistics programs. Many graduates have gone on to become educators, researchers, and advocates in the field of HIV/AIDS. The Unit also has attracted a number of international students and fellows. The Unit’s research projects offer students and community members opportunities for employment and applied learning.

Community Service
Core members of the HIV Studies Unit serve the larger international, national, provincial, local, and university community in a number of ways: as temporary advisors or elected officials to international and national AIDS and Health organisations; as members of editorial boards on leading HIV/AIDS journals; reviewers for national and international research programs and grant review committees; as members and co-chair of federal advisory committees; organisers of summer institutes/summer schools, and co-chair of major scientific conferences

Knowledge Transfer
The transfer of knowledge gained through research to other academics, researchers, policy makers, service providers, and those affected by HIV is central to the vision that guides the work of the unit. Knowledge transfer is accomplished through publications of reports, community-based forums, continuing and graduate education. In knowledge exchange, the Unit considers that it is integral for researchers to help audiences build capacity to use research knowledge and, in turn, for audiences to provide insights to make research more relevant. In addition to the involvement of the communities directly in the research, members of the Unit provide regular consultations concerning program development and method, to AIDS service organisations, and researchers working in the field, and to municipal, provincial, and federal governments. We also develop and provide continuing education through skills building courses in the province, nationally, and internationally.