Bridging the Gaps will implement five community-based research projects between 2017 and 2019. The projects will look at the impact of community empowerment and community mobilisation, and the meaningful involvement of key populations on:

  • a strengthened civil society that holds governments to account
  • key populations enjoying human rights
  • key populations accessing high quality, comprehensive services

Community empowerment

The empowerment of key population communities, including their meaningful involvement, are critical for an effective HIV response.* That’s why community empowerment is an integral component of the Bridging the Gaps programme, and was identified as a key research topic. The aim of the studies is to:

  • improve the effectiveness and quality of programming
  • strengthen the programme’s evidence base
  • inform advocacy activities

Planned studies

Our research agenda for 2017-2019 comprises the following scientific studies:

1. Action for Access! Community-based participatory action research into health and the rights of men and transgender women who have sex with men (TWSM)
Action for Access!’ is a collaborative initiative by country partners: Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), Botswana; Lighthouse, Vietnam; and ISHTAR, Kenya; as well as alliance partner Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF). The research aims to identify and explore structural, community and individual barriers and facilitators affecting access to HIV services among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women who have sex with men (TWSM) in Botswana, Vietnam and Kenya. Findings will contribute to our understanding of what kinds of HIV service infrastructure needs to be developed and where in the three countries in question, as well as common strategies for all three. Findings will also be useful for guiding implementation of evidence-based intervention strategies led by community-based organisations.

2. Quality through inclusion: the impact of community involvement on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services, transgender specific healthcare services, and HIV prevention, treatment and care services for LGBT people
‘Quality through Inclusion’ is to be a community-based research project involving and supporting local partners of  alliance partner COC in South Africa, Kenya and Indonesia (Triangle Project and OUT in South Africa, Minority in Action Women and Men Against AIDS Youth Group (MAAYGO) in Kenya, GWL-INA in Indonesia). The study aims to gather evidence on the impact of community-based sensitisation of healthcare professionals on specific health needs of LGBT people. The main research question is: how and why does involving local LGBT organisations and LGBT communities in the sensitisation of service providers contribute to improved access to quality HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services and transgender-specific healthcare services?

3. How far is far enough? Measuring the impact of community involvement on the quality and accessibility of harm reduction services for people who use drugs (PWUD)
This research project is a collaborative initiative by alliance partners Mainline and the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) and their country partner organisations. It will be carried out by an academic partner. The main research question is: in what ways does community involvement affect and influence the quality of harm reduction services and programming? The aim of this research project is to document and capture various modes of community engagement (ranging from involvement to participation and empowerment), and to analyse how these inform and influence the quality of harm reduction programming, as well as accessibility of these same harm reduction services. The findings can be used to inform HIV and harm reduction programming in a variety of contexts.

4. The impact of community empowerment on access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services, including HIV services
This project is a collaborative initiative by alliance partners Aidsfonds and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), and their country partners in Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and South Africa. The study aims to identify and study best practices in community empowerment and meaningful involvement of sex worker communities in policies, programming and services that resulted in increased access to and high quality SRHR (including HIV) services. The main research question is: what is the impact (and what are the demonstrable benefits) of community empowerment and meaningful involvement of sex worker communities in policies, programming and services, on access to SRHR services, including HIV services, in line with the Sex Worker Implementation Tool (SWIT) for female, male and transgender sex workers (including those living with HIV)?

5. Bridging the Gaps – Best practices for strengthening civil society to end the AIDS epidemic among key populations
This project will cover the three key population projects in three different regions. It is a collaborative effort by all Bridging the Gaps alliance partners, coordinated by Aidsfonds. The aim of the study is to identify how civil society has been successfully strengthened within the programme and to gain insights (from initiatives by Bridging the Gaps and others) to further improve our various capacity strengthening strategies and roles. The main research question is: what are the most effective ways to strengthen civil society partner organisations’ capacities to hold governments to account, to demand a supportive social, legal and policy environment, and to demand services that meet their needs?

* WHO (2016), Consolidated Guidelines on HIV Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment and Care for Key Populations (Update)