Our Research

Our Research

Our research takes an ecological, social determinants and sex/gender-based perspective to understanding and evaluating sexual health and HIV/AIDS and broader health inequities among marginalized populations.

GSHI has been engaging in community-based research since 2004, and increasingly much of our work takes a population health intervention research and geography/ place-based perspective.

Our core themes include: 

Social Inequities Research

Moving beyond the limitations of research that considers individuals as ‘at-risk’, the GSHI research takes an ecological perspective that examines how the broader risk environment shapes interpersonal and gendered negotiation of health outcomes and access to care. This work includes research lines of inquiry on intersecting structural (e.g. punitive laws, discriminatory and racialized policies), physical (e.g. work environment, housing, health service access) and social environments (e.g. gender and social norms, stigma) that shape health outcomes and access to care for marginalized populations. This ecological approach aims to inform improved policies and programs that address health inequities both at individual and population levels.

Population Health Intervention Research

Our population health intervention research is focused on building scientific capacity to evaluate policy implementation and directly inform policy-making that impacts sexual health, HIV/STIs and other health outcomes for both individuals and communities. This work offers unique opportunities to evaluate policies within the context of naturally unfolding experiments, in partnership with affected communities, legal/policy experts, the broader public, policy makers, and scientific community. This research includes evaluating intended and unintended consequences of policies both within and outside the health sector. GSHI has in place a range of long-term projects that offer a unique platform for ongoing policy evaluation research.  

Community-Based Research

GSHI has a long history of community-based research and partnerships with knowledge users, including the affected community, community agencies, legal and human rights experts, and policy makers. You can find summaries of methods and development of some of our key community partnerships in several of our publications. Beyond our community partnerships and community advisory boards, the affected community is frequently represented as researchers, investigators and knowledge users with GSHI projects, and many of our publications are co-authored with the affected community. GSHI researchers have also co-presented many of the findings through community and public policy forums, as well as joint media dissemination. 

Sex and Gender-Based Research

Sexual health, HIV/AIDS, and broader health inequities continue to be shaped by sex (e.g. biological, male/female reproductive health) and gender, socio-cultural construction that encompasses macro-gender inequities (e.g. laws, police, distribution of resources), masculinities and femininities ascribed to women, men and sexual minorities (LGBT2S, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited individuals). GSHI research examines the complex interplay of gender in shaping HIV prevention, treatment and access to care, both macro and micro-level factors, and their downward stream effects in shaping power, agency and access to resources, and negotiation of health risks, actions and decisions.

Geography/ Place-Based Research

GSHI has been conducting geography and place-based research since 2005. This research includes social mapping, geographic information systems (GIS), and complex spatial research to understanding how geography and place (i.e. the physical and social dimensions of environment) shape sexual health and HIV/AIDS access and outcomes. To date, this work funded by CIHR and NIH has included mapping socio-spatial relations of health risks and outcomes among individual and communities, together with external neighbourhood environment (e.g. land use, census and policy data) to examine how health inequities of marginalized populations are embedded within geography and place. This research points to the need for policies and programs that address the factors shaping ‘vulnerable places’ (rather than ‘vulnerable persons’) in population and public health interventions.


AESHA (An Evaluation of Sex Workers' Health Access) is the longest-standing project of GSHI. Building on community-based research partnerships since 2004, AESHA was extended in 2010 to a longitudinal evaluation of the physical, social, and policy environment shaping sexual health, HIV vulnerability, and access to care in the street and hidden off-street sex industry.

The CHAPS Project (Community Health Assessment of Men Who Purchase and Sell Sex) is a community-based, exploratory, qualitative study launched in 2012 together with HUSTLE, the Health Initiative for Men (HIM) and other community-based organisations, such as BoysRUs, in an effort to better understand the sexual health and HIV risk environment of men in the sex industry, both sex buyers (clients) and male sex workers, of any sexual orientation.

GSHI has been conducting ethnographic and qualitative research since 2004, aiming to document the lived experiences of marginalized populations and to better understand how risk environments shape health outcomes, particularly for youth, women, and sex workers.

The Gender, Violence, and HIV Team is an interdisciplinary team of researchers, representing many different sectors, and knowledge users, including policy makers, community partners, and the affected community. The team's focus is on building collaborative and comparative research on structural violence and structuration of HIV risk among vulnerable populations both in Canada and globally.

Since 2009, a team of Canadian and Ugandan researchers, and community partners, including The AIDS Support Organization (TASO), has conducted exploratory research on lived experiences relating to violence, sexual and reproductive health, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and access to care among women living with HIV, youth, and adult sex workers in post-conflict Gulu District of northern Uganda.

The National Partnership on Gender, Work and Health in the Sex Industry: Evaluating the Impact of PCEPA on Sex Workers’ Health, Safety and Human Rights aims to evaluate the impact of new criminalization laws on the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers across five cities in Canada. The project will develop a national community-academic partnership and conduct community-based research with sex work partners to inform gender-responsive solutions that will improve working conditions and occupational health and safety for sex workers in Canada.

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, SHAWNA is a collaboration with a diverse team of researchers, community, legal and policy experts, and women living with HIV.

The Women, HIV and the Law Project, led by an interdisciplinary research team of researchers, legal/policy experts, HIV practice experts and women living with HIV, aims to examine the impacts of the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure on women living with HIV in BC, including how sex and gender shape women's experiences of HIV and the law, and how this affects their health and access to HIV care.