Background of the project
The program began in Toronto a few years ago following a request from Ontario’s Poz Prevention Working Group. Over time, it’s been tailored based on feedback from participants, the experiences of the facilitators, and ongoing research. In Toronto, the GPS program is based at the AIDS Committee of Toronto, and the research component is conducted by Dr. Trevor Hart’s HIV Prevention Lab at Ryerson University. In Vancouver, the GPS program is based at Positive Living BC, and the research component is being facilitated with the support of Dr. Malcolm Steinberg at Simon Fraser University and the HIV Prevention Lab at Ryerson University.
The program’s primary investigators are Dr. Trevor Hart and Dr. Barry Adam. Dr. Trevor Hart is an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology at Ryerson University whose research focuses on improving the sexual and mental health and well-being of gay and bisexual men and of people living with HIV. Dr. Barry Adam is a University Professor at the University of Windsor and Senior Scientist and Director of Prevention Research at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network. His community-based research focuses on HIV prevention and issues of living with HIV.
The research components
The research component of the project includes questionnaires that participants complete before the program begins, and three more questionnaires over a six month period upon completing the program. Each questionnaire asks similar questions about participants’ demographics, mood, personality, preferences, and sexual behaviours in the past two months. Participants are also asked to do an in-person interview with the research coordinator following the completion of the program. Compensation is provided for each study visit participants complete. This research provides evidence to support sexual health programming for gay and bisexual men living with HIV.
The GPS program helps participants discover the best things about their sex life, figure out how to get more of the sex they want, and determine how to minimize or even eliminate some of the things they want to change. We believe that each participant may have his own goals for having hotter and better sex, and we’re here to help each guy achieve his goals. Overall, the purpose of GPS is to build men’s confidence in themselves when it comes to making the changes they want to see in their lives and getting the best sex that leaves them feeling satisfied and empowered.
Research findings to date
Preliminary results from the program have shown great outcomes; participants report better and healthier sex. These results have been presented at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network conference and the British Columbia Gay Men’s Health Summit. However, what this program won’t do is tell participants to wear a condom or have fewer sex partners, or any other typical risk reduction advice. GPS is not your average sexual health program. We know gay and bisexual men living with HIV want good sex, and for most that includes protecting themselves and their partners. The objective of this new research is to determine if GPS is an effective program for gay and bisexual HIV-positive men.
This study is supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN 271).