Improving Access to Legal and Healthcare Action Research Report

Improving Access to Legal Services & Health-Care For People Living With HIV/AIDS Who are Immigrants, Refugees or Without Status; Action Research Report July 2001

People Living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs) who are immigrants, refugees or without legal status in Canada face enormous barriers in accessing health care, HIV treatment, legal and community services. The Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT), a coalition of service providers from Community Health Centres (CHCs) and AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs), initiated a research project as a way to document and respond to the suffering of these PHAs. The Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) provided research funding.

The project gathered information and used a community development approach to involve stakeholders. Safe points of contact were found to interview 38 immigrants, refugees and non-status PHAs in Toronto. We spoke with 28 service providers and 10 physicians. We also reviewed relevant reference materials .

The project identified the barriers that immigrant, refugee and non-status PHAs face to access treatment, care and services. We were inspired by their courage and endurance, not only living with a life-threatening disease but many having had to flee persecution in their home countries. We were also inspired by the dedication of the service providers, physicians and the handful of lawyers who respond to the overwhelming needs of these PHAs. Solutions emerged from all their experiences that would be effective, practical and much more humane. We learned that with good community and legal support many of these PHAs can achieve legal status in Canada. However, we identified a clear need to create a more supportive environment in order to dismantle the barriers to services.