Christina is a former staff member of PAN.
Christina Bielek is the new Positive Living, Positive Homes Project Coordinator at the Pacific AIDS Network. Prior to taking this position, Christina worked in research and teaching in the areas of sociology, community development, poverty alleviation, gender equity and food security in Canada and Latin America.
We asked Christina 5 questions about her experiences and views on community-based HIV research.
- What first piqued your interest in HIV and Housing research?
I have always been interested in health in wellness issues, and I have moved around a lot in my life, which makes housing stability an issue that hits close to home for me. I studied sociology as it gave me space to explore multiple research interests, and I became a bit of a research methods nerd in the process, with a specific interest in the social determinants of health.
When teaching a Sociology of Development course, we reviewed the millennium development goals extensively, including “halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and achieve universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.” Through these discussions, my students really helped further my interest in HIV/AIDS research, and the challenges to achieving the millennium development goals.
- What role do you think HIV/AIDS research plays in the “real world”?
I think that Positive Living, Positive Homes is the perfect example of real-world-applicable HIV/AIDS research. For example, we will be able to draw from multiple perspectives to look at the successes and challenges of different policies and programs in improving housing stability for people living with, or at risk of, HIV and AIDS in BC. Housing has been identified as one of the largest unmet needs for people living with HIV/AIDS, so I think these topics are very relevant, and it will important to examine them in depth in British Columbia.
It is hoped that this study will impact housing programs and policies in the province, promoting greater access to suitable, affordable and culturally appropriate housing services. I feel very fortunate to be coordinating this study!
3. How is the community involved in your research?
I believe that community involvement is essential if research is to be relevant, accessible and empowering for real people and communities on the ground. I have worked on participatory research studies on community economic development and food security, and found the process to be really rewarding. What I love the most about community-based research is that it not only has the ability to contribute to our knowledge of social and health issues, but it also has the power to influence social and policy change. Clearly, this is much easier said than done, and working with consensus decision making in large groups can be a time-consuming process, but I think that learning and re-learning to work together equitably in groups is extremely valuable and meaningful.
4. If you had unlimited funds, which areas of research would you invest in?
I think that community based and multidisciplinary research are areas that could always use extra funding. I think that it’s important to look at social, health and environmental issues holistically, so I would invest in studies on the social determinants of health. I also have a strong interest in food security research as well as alternative agriculture and social movements.
5. If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent you’d like to be gifted with and why?
I would chose to have limitless natural talents: I would have infinite creativity, possess vast gardening abilities and be a phenomenal musician. I would be one of those great household fix-it people, and definitely a better bike mechanic… Perhaps I am breaking the rules by choosing “limitless” for my talent, but why should we limit ourselves or our dreams?