Employing people living with HIV as peer research associates is gaining popularity today as Community Based Organizations and researchers attempt to integrate the greater involvement of people living with HIV more meaningfully into new research projects.
The HIV community is responding by promoting the development of industry standards for employing workers with HIV to adequately provide support based on the unique needs of this group of workers. Often unskilled in the conventional sense of their job descriptions, peers bring accessibility to the community, rich relationship opportunities and subject relevance, and personal history to their work. Specific supports are required to address the emotional, physical, financial, and personal intensity impact this employment has on these workers. By openly discussing and including the input of peer workers to establish industry standards for support provision that can be adapted to various forms of peer employment, we will offer a valuable resource for researchers, community organizations, Health Authorities, and others who seek to employ people living with HIV on research projects.
A series of four focus groups were held in Vancouver BC over the past 18 months to engage PLHIV peer workers, researchers and CBOs who employ peer research associates, and academics/research partners with an interest in meaningful engagement of the HIV community, to discuss challenges,successes and supports in research employing peer research associates. Feedback was coded for themes, analyzed, and presented as an open access “tool kit” of options for providing support to peer research associates engaged on research projects.
It is hoped that the “living document” tool kit produced will be added to by the research community, as new support provision ideas come forward. The creation of an organic, industry standard of support provision for peer research associates is clearly indicated.
The growing popularity of community engagement in research through the employment of peer research associates, comes with inherent challenges to providing appropriate support. Meaningful engagement of the HIV community comes with the responsibility of doing no harm. Creating new,and adapting existing support tools is essential for the long term success of engaging peer research associates in HIV research.
Click here to view the report. Peer Worker Support Project v2