Unique new lab to provide “Gold Standard of HIV care” for Black community in Scarborough

Notisha Massaquoi

The Department of Health and Society is launching a new lab which conducts rigorous community-based health research and works with Black communities to develop advocacy tools, strategies and programs to improve health outcomes, wellbeing and success in Canadian healthcare systems. 

Assistant Professor Notisha Massaquoi is Director of the newly created Black Health Equity Lab, which has launched a $1.2 million project to develop the first HIV clinical service for the Black community in Canada. The lab will be based at the Department of Health and Society and will provide HIV clinical staff and services for the Black community at Scarborough’s TAIBU Community Health Centre.

Funding for the project was provided by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network.

“Scarborough has one of the highest rates of increasing HIV in the province and yet we don’t have specific services for Black community members who are disproportionately impacted,” said Professor Massaquoi. “This culturally appropriate service will be housed within a health centre that’s focused on Black health, with all of the supports and resources you need to provide optimum treatment and care for newly diagnosed patients. So, we’re really excited to get up and running.”

The Black Health Equity Lab will engage in research that develops programs and services and helps address health disparities faced by Black communities. The first major project will be creating a model of best practice for treatment of Black people with HIV, informed by the Lab’s research.

The funding will provide a new case management team that includes a nurse practitioner, a social worker and two community outreach workers. “They will be at TAIBU providing services and we the researchers are going to be developing all the surveys and the tools and all the things that they need to provide the best evidence-based care possible. The goal is that we will develop the gold standard of what HIV care should look like for black communities, and then that model can be replicated nationally.”

Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director at TAIBU Community Healthcare added: “In furthering our partnership with University of Toronto Scarborough, TAIBU is excited to be part of the Black Health Equity Lab. This partnership will not only strengthen the relationship between academia and community but is providing a real, practical and evidence-based practice that will address the impact of anti-Black racism on the health and wellbeing of members of the Black communities. As an organization mandated to serve the Black populations in the Greater Toronto Area, this is initiative is right in our lane and we are honored to be working under the leadership of Dr Notisha Massaquoi, who has not only been a mentor to me personally, but was also one of the agents in the establishment of TAIBU.”