Programming Connection

TAHAH: Towards Aboriginal Health and Healing Program 

Vancouver STOP Project
Vancouver, British Columbia

Required Resources

Human resources

TAHAH is staffed by one full-time nurse (this position is filled by two part-time employees); one intensive case manager, who works 32 hours per week; community health advocates, who each work four hours per week; and one elder, who works 10 hours per week for all VNHS programs.

TAHAH staff work closely together in a coordinated and non-hierarchal leadership model. The individuals in each position bring a particular range of expertise; however, there is considerable fluidity across the roles in terms of how connections are made with clients and supports are offered.

All TAHAH staff, first and foremost, work to build and maintain relationships and trust with clients. There are additional responsibilities associated with each position, as discussed below.

The role of the nurses is to triage the most critical health issues facing the client, which often are unrelated to their HIV status. By providing immediate and necessary health care, the nurses establish trust and engage clients in therapeutic and educational dialogue. They also encourage the client to have blood work done to help monitor the client’s HIV viral load and CD4 counts and provide them with information about treatment options. In addition, the nurses provide reminders for and will accompany clients to physician appointments.

The case manager’s role is focused on increasing the client’s access to services to support stabilization. These services often include housing, food and disability benefits. The case manager also gives reminders for and will accompany clients to doctor and specialist appointments. By providing intensive case management, they connect all the aspects of client care.

The TAHAH Elder is well known and respected in the Downtown Eastside. The elder’s involvement in the program provides an essential pathway to First Nation knowledge, traditions and ceremonies, things that are often highly valued by clients and in short supply in their lives. This assistance in reconnecting to First Nation cultural traditions can be a source of strength and healing for First Nation clients. The elder also supports the peers and the rest of the TAHAH team practically and philosophically by promoting indigenous knowledge in the care and support of the program’s clients.

The peer health advocates are Positive Outlook Program clients and each identify as a First Nation person living with HIV. Two of the four health advocates still live in the Downtown Eastside. They are responsive to clients’ needs and support clients in a variety of ways. Sometimes clients are living in extreme isolation and the peer health advocates can act as surrogate family members. The peers visit clients in the hospital, talk to them about HIV treatment and living with HIV, accompany them to appointments and help them learn the ropes as they begin to access the available resources.