Our Research


Ethnographic-Qualitative Project of the HIV Risk Environment

GSHI has been conducting qualitative and ethnographic 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. This ‘Ethno-Quali’ project was originally supported by a CIHR community-based HIV research grant and since 2011 has been supported by a 5 year NIH grant focused on a longitudinal investigation of the physical, social and structural features of the street and indoor work environment, such as the layout, accessability, licensing and enforcement mechanisms, and their impact on HIV/STI risks, sexual health, and access to care.

The project includes in-depth interviews with sex workers and key stakeholders, including business owners and managers, venue-based ethnography and qualitative mapping, and complements the AESHA Project, with more-in depth examination of the street and hidden off-street sex industry. To date, this research has included documenting the lived experiences of structural violence and policing of street-based sex workers, an evaluation of an innovative model of unsanctioned indoor sex work spaces, and has examined the structural and political-economy of city licensing and management policies shaping HIV/STI risk negotiations among migrant and new immigrant workers.