Our Research


Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS: Women's Longitudinal Needs Assessment


SHAWNA (Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS: Women's Longitudinal Needs Assessment) is a five-year, CIHR-funded research project focusing on the social, policy, legal, gender, and geographic gaps in women's sexual health and HIV care across Metro Vancouver. Launched in 2015, the project is a collaboration with a diverse team of researchers, community, legal and policy experts, and women living with HIV.

We are committed to GIWA/MIWA principles, which means ensuring the lived experiences of women and trans persons living with HIV are meaningfully included in all stages of research, including identifying research priorities, conducting community outreach and presentations, conducting survey and qualitative interviews, and co-authoring and sharing results. For more information about the research aims of the SHAWNA Project, please see our full summary here.

Starting in 2014, the SHAWNA team carried out Phase I: Consultation & Planning (April - December 2014). They met with our partners and collaborators, and reached out to women living with HIV, service providers and other community and policy experts for input and feedback on the initial stages of the project's development. A summary of the community consultation process and priorities that were identified by women living with HIV can be found here.

Since officially launching in 2015, the SHAWNA team has interviewed over 300 women living with HIV (trans-inclusive). This includes more than 640 interviews (two to four per person) by community/peer research associates, with a clinical visit facilitated by a sexual health research nurse to support education, support, referral, and linkage to care, and over 60 qualitative in-depth interviews to understand the lived experiences of women living with HIV. We have also held three photovoice series on HIV non-disclosure criminalization co-facilitated by peer research associates. The first took place with the Positive Women’s Advisory Board (hosted at Positive Women’s Network), the second with the Afro-Canadian Positive Women’s Network of BC, and the third with Indigenous women (supported by Oak Tree Clinic and Positive Women's Network).

Our research team is busy inviting participants to the study, connecting with community, giving presentations, and offering outreach, education and connections to supports and services. The SHAWNA team is made up of the GSHI Research Coordinator, Peer Research Associates, experiential and non-experiential Interviewers/Outreach Workers, and sexual health nursing staff.

The project is overseen by the Positive Women's Advisory Board, made up of women living with HIV, and the SHAWNA Community Advisory Board, made up of representatives from community organizations supporting women living with HIV. The Positive Women's Advisory Board meets regularly in spaces generously provided by community partner organizations. Partners include YouthCO HIV & Hep C Society, Positive Women's Network, Pivot Legal Society, WISH Drop-In Centre Society, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre/ Women's Health Research Institute/ Oak Tree Clinic, BC Centre for Disease Control, Aboriginal Health Research Program at the University of Victoria, among others. For details on the SHAWNA Project research structure, advisories and process please see here.

The Gender and Sexual Health Initiative (GSHI) is committed to research that promotes gender and sexual equity and includes access to safe, non-judgmental health care free of stigma and discrimination. The SHAWNA Project is committed to MIWA and MIPA principles of meaningful engagement and inclusion of women living with HIV. Our diverse staff of peer research associates, outreach workers and nurses have a range of experiential assets including as women living with HIV, sex workers, and Indigenous, migrant, and trans persons. GSHI is strongly committed to action-oriented research and knowledge translation that promotes improved sexual health and HIV care policies, practices, and rights for women who access HIV care in Metro Vancouver. GSHI is independent from government authorities, law enforcement, and religious organizations.