Programming Connection

TAHAH: Towards Aboriginal Health and Healing Program 

Vancouver STOP Project
Vancouver, British Columbia
2013

Introduction

Bridging Western and First Nation treatment approaches

In the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Towards Aboriginal Health and Healing (TAHAH) program offers a network of supports to First Nation people living with HIV who are navigating a myriad of health and social burdens, including street involvement, poverty and acute use of multiple substances. A common thread woven into the clients’ personal stories is distrust of mainstream institutions that provide care, because of personal, historical and institutional traumas.

TAHAH is an HIV treatment, care and support initiative that aims to support clients’ stability and improve their overall health through clinical and outreach work. It uses Western medicine and traditional and contemporary First Nation knowledge and practices. First Nation peer community advocates and an Elder work within an interdisciplinary team including nurses and an intensive case manager to provide extensive support.

When you walk through the doors at the Vancouver Native Health Society (VNHS), where TAHAH is housed, you step into a world where First Nation cultures are visible and tangible. Despite the many people moving about in a buzz of activity, clients and staff are very friendly and greet everyone who enters. You will see multiple things occurring simultaneously, from casual conversations to crisis interventions to triage. Food is being offered and shared. Phones ring. You will also get the sense that much more is happening behind the scenes.

TAHAH staff will tell you that as clients connect with healing, all of its members and indeed the fabric of the community are strengthened.

The TAHAH program, with the support of VNHS, AIDS Vancouver and the Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS (STOP) initiative, is designed to foster authentic and therapeutic connections with HIV-positive First Nation people who are falling through the cracks in the healthcare system. These connections are considered the essential path to increased health and social well-being.