Surita Parashar helps facilitate “The way I see it,” a community based research project that uses Photovoice methodology to examine the impact of housing on health as seen through the eyes of people living with HIV and AIDS in Vancouver. The project is led by a team of Community Researchers – Randy, Rob, Valerie, Lora, Lynda, Dan, Mel and Jenny – all of whom are living with HIV and passionate about housing research and advocacy. This work is supported by Rosa and Lyanna at the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation; Kim at McLaren Housing Society of BC; and Bob, Kate, Angela, Ali, Kevin, Chris, Cameron and Jay at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE). This participatory action research project is the focus of Surita’s work at the BC-CfE, the subject of her PhD research at SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and the centre of her universe.
1. What first piqued your interest in HIV research?
My interest in HIV research is actually just an interest in people. I have long been the person having loud conversations with strangers on buses and street corners. If you have enough conversations with strangers you will eventually find yourself thinking a lot about human rights.
In later years I discovered and cultivated my skills in talking about topics that make people uncomfortable while teaching sex education for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.
Human rights + sexual and reproductive health – it was inevitable that HIV research would find me. After doing some overseas work I returned to Vancouver to focus on issues that I had grown up observing but not fully understanding, particularly about the way disease/disability/destitution are concentrated in particular populations and neighbourhoods.
The AIDS movement started out very grassroots, which means my work always keeps me in the company of inspiring people who can share their lived experience. So it really is people’s stories that piqued my interest and has kept me interested in this work all these years.