Founded in 1999, The Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT) is a coalition of affected individuals and organizations from the legal, health, settlement, and HIV/AIDS sectors joining force to promote the health and wellbeing of marginalized people living with HIV/AIDS (PHA) who are facing treatment and service access barriers. It plays an important role in advancing PHA capacity building programs, education, training, research, service coordination, and advocacy on issues related to HIV/AIDS, immigration, and service access.
In 2022, faced with changing needs and resources challenges impacting our communities in the midst of the pandemic, CAAT embarked on a process to redefine its strategic plan and operational model. To support this work, Alvenco Consulting was commissioned to conduct a community needs assessment to (1) Identify and prioritize the needs of racialized/newcomer communities served by CAAT to inform programs, policies and services; and (2) Provide options and recommendations to guide the governance and operational structure for CAAT’s future.
The assessment involved Virtual Community Consultation Sessions and an online survey that collected input from over 80 respondents, including CAAT program participants, ethno-specific ASOs, community partner agencies, Program associates and peer facilitators, and current and former staff.
The consultation identified key strengths and community program needs, including:
- A strong sense of community and belonging was voiced across all stakeholder groups.
- Appreciation for CAAT’s inclusion and engagement of diverse communities, capacity building, advocacy, empowerment, and implementation of GIPA/MEPA principles.
- CAAT’s capacity building programs and activities had a significant positive impact on people’s lives.
- Call for increased programming for linguistically diverse community members.
- Call for creation for increased safe spaces for those affected by HIV/AIDS (including children of parents living with HIV/AIDS).
- Call for increased mental health and substance use programming.
Findings also indicated several internal and external challenges and constraints:
- Recruitment practices were not always effective.
- Some program content required updating.
- The fragmented nature of the HIV/AIDS sector, and healthcare, social service, and immigration systems poses challenges for CAAT to effectively do its work.
- The COVID-19 pandemic impacted people’s ability to maintain connections to the CAAT community.
- All stakeholder groups noted the need for CAAT to modify its governance and operational model.
Key recommendations emerged from the consultation process include:
- Seek and secure new funding to improve adaptability to meet emerging needs of the people its serves.
- CAAT should become an independent organization to improve clarity and effectiveness on its governance structures, accountability measures and succession planning.
- Clarify and Communicate An Organizational Mandate that is informed and driven by greater and meaningful involvement of the communities it serves.
- Strengthen and Develop Partnerships with stakeholders beyond the HIV/AIDS sector.Refine The Program Delivery Model to ensure responsiveness to current and emerging community needs.
- Expand programming to serve communities with high needs, including but not limited to people affected by HIV/AIDS, newcomers, racialized communities, linguistically diverse communities, people with mental health needs, people who use substances, people living with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness or precarious housing conditions, and youth.