Programming Connection

TAHAH: Towards Aboriginal Health and Healing Program 

Vancouver STOP Project
Vancouver, British Columbia

Why Was the Program Developed?

Two paradigm shifts at VNHS led to the creation of the TAHAH program. By 2005, improvements in HIV treatment were enabling people living with HIV to live longer, healthier lives. As a result, HIV care at VNHS around this time was shifting from an infectious disease model to a chronic disease management model. The chronic disease management model allowed the VNHS team to focus on longer term outcomes for client care, including patient self-management. This shift also led to VNHS developing programs that aimed to address the barriers that some people face in accessing HIV treatment.

While this approach resulted in significant improvements in HIV care for First Nation clients at VNHS, it was apparent that some First Nation people living with HIV in the community were still falling through the cracks and not receiving adequate healthcare. The low-barrier, standardized model of health care offered at the clinic at that time did not work for the complex health needs and social circumstances of these individuals.

At the same time (2005-7), VNHS was participating in a research project that involved training four First Nation people living with HIV as community-based researchers. The four peers completed a year-long intensive training program with Simon Fraser University and developed a range of skills including in-depth peer support. These individuals were clients of the Positive Outlook Program at VNHS, and through this peer work, started to become more embedded in the organization.

The insights gained at VNHS through the adoption of a chronic disease management model and the integration of the peer community advocates into the organization informed the TAHAH program model. To successfully engage the individuals in the community who needed extensive support to stabilize their lives so that they could ultimately access standardized care, an intensive case management approach was developed that included the trained peers as core program staff.

The goals developed for the TAHAH program aligned with the goals of the STOP project, including improving access to HIV care and treatment. In 2011, the TAHAH program began to operate with funding support offered by STOP.