The South Asian community in Canada has grown— people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and Nepali descent now represent the majority of visible minorities in Canada. Yet, little research in the HIV field has addressed their unique lived experiences. Samir Durrani, a Master’s student at McGill University in Montreal is delving into this line of research, specifically regarding gay and bi-sexual men of South Asian descent.
For his Master’s project, Samir is interviewing members of the South Asian MSM community in Toronto and Montreal to learn about their experiences. “I’m looking at psychological, social and cultural factors that might increase their risk for HIV,” Samir says. His work is framed within the minority stress model, a theory used by prevention research to explain the higher rates of HIV prevalence in minority populations. “When it comes to HIV/AIDS there is still a lot of stigma and phobia in the South Asian community,” explains Samir. “Members of the gay community experience another layer.” This stigmatization could influence their sexual health, sexual behaviour and risk for HIV.
Samir’s work is filling in a void in the research that needs to be addressed with Canada’s growing South Asian population. “I’d like to start the conversation. When you are looking at HIV prevention research in Canada there really haven’t been any studies looking at the South Asian population specifically.”
Samir received a CAHR Masters Research Award and it has been helping him progress in his studies. “As a graduate student, you’re on a tight budget, so a source of funding really gives you peace of mind. You can focus on the research,” Samir explains. “I don’t think I would have made the progress I’ve made so far if it wasn’t for the CAHR award.”
The Canadian Association for HIV Research is proud to support students like Samir Duranni in their research through graduate research awards. Please visit https://www.cahr-acrv.ca/funding-opportunities/ to learn more.