5 Questions with Vicki Nygaard, Kamloops Site Coordinator for Positive Living, Positive Homes

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Vicki has been teaching sociology for many years at several BC universities and colleges, and the courses she loves most are the ones focused on social justice. She has worked on several research projects in the past, including a cross-Canada study on the situations of contingent faculty members and unionization at universities. She has also co-written a textbook on social problems (now in its fourth edition) where her chapters focus on poverty, racism, homophobia, the sex trade, gender violence, and environmental degradation.

Outside of academic work, Vicki has held many jobs including research and consultancy positions for the Government of British Columbia and other not-for-profit organizations, running a Women’s Centre, and working as a business agent for CUPE. Her interests outside of work are her two daughters, cooking, hiking, Buddhist meditation, pottery, mosaics, and decorating and design. 

 

What first piqued your interest in HIV research?

In the early 1990s, I learned that my dear friend Larry and his husband Guy (they were the first same sex couple to be married and make their marriage public in Vancouver, I believe) were HIV positive. I was extremely worried about them and found it hard to fathom that there was no cure that could yet save their lives. Then, in 2002, my uncle, whom I was close to, died of complications related to AIDS. The family was shocked and we all searched for answers as to how he could have contracted HIV, the likely answer being injection drug use. His wife died not too long afterwards, likely of the same complications, although she never admitted to being HIV positive. These relationships have made HIV/AIDS an issue that continues to touch me personally.

 

How is your research applicable to the “real world”?

I am an applied sociologist. What that means to me is that any research I commit to, I commit to only because it has real world relevance and applicability. In the past, as today, the only projects I have been involved in have/had a social justice orientation. It is important to me that research with people who experience marginalization, in any way, has a clear path to positive social change. The current research I am involved with at PAN will have direct policy implications for housing for people living with HIV, which I believe can only improve people’s health and well-being and also serves social justice goals.

 

How is the community involved in your research?

In Positive Living, Positive Homes, people living with HIV have been involved as expert consultants and advisors from the inception of the study, all the way through to its current stage. These team members, and others living with HIV, will continue to play key roles in analysis of the data, education, and knowledge transfer to the communities through to the end of the project and beyond. Additionally, as a site coordinator in Kamloops, I work out of an AIDS Service Organization, and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to be in touch with the everyday issues people are experiencing, as people living with the virus and as people serving this community.

 

If you had unlimited funds, which areas of research would you invest in?

My passion has always been education centered on issues of marginalization and discrimination; therefore I would have to say that, given unlimited funds, I would spend a lot on educating around issues of stigma, discrimination, and inclusion, and trying to find ways to support people who have experienced exclusion and negative judgments by others.

 

If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent you’d like to be gifted with and why?

I have no musical talent whatsoever and desperately wish I did! I feel that music can provide an incredible amount of connection and can act as a profound conduit for the expression of emotions, be those emotions of joy or grief or whatever. Many people in my family are extremely musically gifted and I grew up enjoying their abilities immensely but also feeling just a little envious… By the way, I do sing a little (in my car!).