HIV Community Based Research

Bringing Community & Academia together through research


Considering Ethics Issues in HIV CBR


Ethics in HIV research is a relatively unknown area for most Community Based Organizations in Canada. Generally taken care of by the Institutional partner, most CBOs rarely become involved in the details involved with obtaining ethics approval for an HIV CBR project. Much valuable information is to be gained by understanding the basic Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS2) protocol that applies to all research on human subjects in Canada.

Tri-Council Tutorial Information page

Tri-Council Protocol Tutorial Registration page

The TCPS2 web tutorial takes an applicant through several case studies and asks which protocol do you think is the best way to handle an ethics issue. Correct answers are provided following each example, so try it out and see how you do!


Basically, the research ethics approval process for new projects consists of three main areas to consider for your application.

  1. Protecting confidentiality/anonymity of research subjects and community members
  2. Accounting for potential harm to the participants, Institution, or research team
  3. Troubleshooting liability issues and other areas of concern for safety.


Here are a few resources to assist with your ethics issues.

An excellent free online resource already exists for anyone interested in exploring more detailed ethical questions. See the Centre for CBR website from Waterloo Ontario, and their helpful information pages on ethics.

The Community Research Ethics Office Workshop Series includes:

Am I Being Ethical in my Treatment of Participants and Communities?

The workshop will cover such issues as:

·         research ethics principles and guidelines

·         how to apply ethical principles and guidelines to your research

·         examples of ethical dilemmas and how to address them


Another great resource for expanding your knowledge of HIV CBR ethics issues can be found on the Canadian Wellesley Institute website.

Be sure to see the ethics article by Flicker, Roche, and Guta, titled


‘A Community Based Research Working Paper Series’

The report is Part III of a series of working papers that provides an overview of research findings from a study related to the practice of peer research as a strategy in community-based research in Toronto, Canada. They illuminate the particular ways in which participants discussed ethical challenges in their work when adopting a peer researcher approach.

Many participants articulated that the very decision to engage in more participatory processes was an ethical one. Nevertheless, new practices lay the foundation for different ethical dilemmas. When probed, many participants highlighted challenging ethical moments that emerged from their CBR practices. Read the full article for more details!

Cover Page Flicker Guta article Generally, the Institutional partner can obtain ethics approval for your joint project for free from their University Research Ethics Board (REB) but check to be sure this is allowed if the Community partner is holding the project funding, this is not always the case.

Always allow more than ample time for ethics approval, as it is common to have several revision requests before approval is granted and the project work can proceed.


As always, if you would like to include your own great example on this topic please use the Contact Me tab in the top righthand corner of this site!

BCHIVCBR resources are posted to be freely used in the community. If you incorporate any of our material into your own publications or website, we ask that you credit BCHIVCBR following the Creative Commons License.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *