Black Coalition for AIDS prevention
AUDIENCE Settlement, social, and health service providers
POPULATION OF INTEREST Immigrants and refugees
LOCATION Toronto, ON
THE NEED There was a lack of ethno-specific and culturally competent services specific to aid African, Caribbean and Black people living with HIV or affected by HIV/AIDS.
WHAT'S PROMISING Black-CAP responded to the need for adequate and appropriate services, including Support and Harm Reduction teams that address mental health, for African, Caribbean and Black communities who were diagnosed or affected by HIV/AIDS.
KEY TAKEAWAY Take some time to research, talk with others in the community and gain knowledge to strengthen the relationship and trust that the client forms with you. Also, alongside having strong alliances with other AIDS Service organizations, Black CAP has remained a source of strength and advocacy in the ACB community.
Tineke Harrison-Hansraj, Interim Mental Health Coordinator, Black Coalition For AIDS Prevention, writes:
In the 1980s, there was a rise in the number of African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) individuals who were being diagnosed with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in Toronto. However, at that time, there were no ethno-specific and culturally competent services to aid them. In response, the Toronto AIDS Committee started the Black AIDS Project and from this a steering committee entitled Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black-CAP) emerged. Over the past 30 years, Black-CAP has grown to become the largest Black AIDS Service Organization in Canada.
Black-CAP is a volunteer-driven, charitable, not-for-profit, community-based organization. We provide HIV/AIDS education, prevention, settlement, mental health and other supports to the culturally diverse ACB communities in Toronto, including LGBTQ+ identified people. Our mission is to reduce the transmission of HIV within Black communities and to enhance the quality of life for ACB people living with HIV or affected by HIV/AIDS. There have been significant changes over the years – from the initial 3 staff to now over 25, and countless volunteers – Black CAP has grown to include further services such as Refugee and Settlement, Support Workers, Harm Reduction, Healthy Sexuality Educators, Clinical Youth Outreach and Mental Health.
Our organization addresses the mental health needs of immigrants and refugees through our Support and Harm Reduction teams. Within the Support team, there is a Refugee Settlement Worker and a Settlement Coordinator who start and follow the journey of clients from arrival in Canada, to their hearing, and beyond. Their role is predominantly to help clients with their basis of claims forms, understanding the process and connecting them with other supports. In addition, the Support, Women Support and Women Peer Support Coordinators work alongside clients as advocates, community workers and outreach workers to support their integration. We also have a Clinical Youth Outreach Worker who provides support to immigrant and refugee youth aged 12-25 who are LGBTQ+ or living with HIV or both. Counseling is provided through various clinical and holistic strategies.
Within the Harm Reduction team, we have MSM (Men who have sex with men), Trans outreach, Prevention and Education coordinators who are tasked with providing different supports. For example, educators work to aid clients who may be dealing with or affected by substance use. As a team we work together to ensure that each client has well-rounded and dedicated supports.
There are certain components that service providers should keep in mind when working with this vulnerable population. For example, when working with ACB immigrant and refugee clients ensure that you are aware of the stigmas and discrimination that our own government systems have regarding this population. This includes the addition of a Tuberculosis test; which clients must pay for themselves and in many cases results in forced treatment – even if the client has been successfully treated in the past. This is an additional stressor for those in the ACB community when arriving in a new country - beyond the already daunting task of trying to establish themselves. This additional medical testing can further delay the processing of their application and overall be extremely burdensome and traumatizing.
Gaining an understanding of the culture, traditions and history of people from African and Caribbean regions can greatly improve the work you do with clients. The upbringing and life experiences of clients can greatly affect their willingness to engage in traditional clinical practice. Take some time to research, talk with others in the community and gain knowledge to strengthen the relationship and trust that the client forms with you. Also, alongside having strong alliances with other AIDS Service organizations, Black CAP has remained a source of strength and advocacy in the ACB community, and we hope that all clients can experience this at every organization they visit. Immigrants and refugees all have stories to tell and providing the space for them to do so is very powerful in itself.