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Transnationalism and HIV/AIDS Project

Transnationalism and HIV/AIDS Project

About the Study

Funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Operating Grant, a team of researchers from Canada (three of which are from McMaster) and China are working on a 4-year interdisciplinary project (2011-2015), Living in "transnational spaces": Gendered vulnerability to HIV of Chinese immigrants in a transitional context and the implications for future interventions.

Motivated by the absence of scholarly and professional knowledge about the HIV risk faced by one of the largest groups of newcomers to Canada, several members of the research team undertook a CIHR-funded pilot project (2007-2009), HIV/AIDS in the context of international migration and global interdependence, to understand better this vulnerability. They found that these new generations of Chinese immigrants are living in what are increasingly recognized as "transnational spaces" -- spaces in which their lives are not limited by the territorial boundaries of Canada (as the host country) and China (as their home country). Alienation from mainstream (Canadian) society due to various settlement challenges, alongside increased access to travel and communication technologies (the internet, the telephone, and online communication software) have led them to remain in close contact with China and to live in a space that links "home" with Canada. Their understandings of, and exposure to HIV risks, and their capacity to respond to risks are thus shaped by their "in-between positions" in transnational spaces.

Through examining the vulnerability to HIV faced by the current generation of Chinese immigrants in a transnational context, this study seeks to understand the intersections among immigration, inequality and global health governance as an emerging mechanism to manage health determinants and outcomes, being changed by globalization. Specifically, the current study will explore the following three research questions:

  1. How have Chinese immigrants’ experiences of living in transnational spaces differentially affected their gendered vulnerability to HIV and their capacity to respond to it?
  2. What are the differences and similarities in the ways in which HIV/AIDS-related responses (such as knowledge construction, education, service delivery, involvement of civil society organizations and policy-making) in Canada and in China have taken account of gender-based and other differences arising from transnationalism?
  3. What are the implications of transnationalism and globalization for HIV interventions, as well as on inequalities, including gendered ones, in health outcomes and services?


Data collection for this project will be carried out in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada and in Beijing and Shanghai, China.


Research Team

Emmy Arnold

Emmy Arnold is a social scientist who has worked for many years in health research within a university setting and in the community. She has worked in a range of research areas including capacity building in community based HIV/AIDS Service Organizations; policy development in the areas of blood supply management and blood donor deferral; social and cultural aspects of blood transfusion and blood disorders; risk assessment and management in the development of new heath related technologies; patient decision making and workplace re-entry for individuals with disabilities. Emmy has been a CIHR co-investigator, and brings to this project her expertise in qualitative research methods and project management. Emmy is the current Project Manager.

Roy Cain

Roy Cain is a Professor in the School of Social Work at McMaster University, Canada and brings his expertise in HIV/AIDS, community-based research and qualitative research methods to this study. Since the late 1980s, Dr. Cain's research has focused on the social aspects of HIV/AIDS. His recent work examines: (1) the delivery of HIV/AIDS support services and (2) the interplay of mental health and culture to identify distinctive features of Aboriginal experiences of depression. Previous research has examined the evolution of community-based services for people living with HIV/AIDS and the involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS in services and policy development. He is a co-investigator of this project

William D. Coleman

William Coleman is Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo and the Founding Director of the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition at McMaster University, Canada. He holds the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) Chair in Globalization and Public Policy at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. Dr. Coleman has published five books and numerous articles on globalization studies and public policy. He is also the General Editor of the Globalization and Autonomy Series of books published by UBC Press. He is a co-principal investigator of this project and of the pilot study.

Jacqueline Gahagan

Jacqueline Gahagan is a Professor of Health Promotion and Director of the Gender and Health Promotion Studies Unit at Dalhousie University and a member of Canada's Ministerial Council on HIV/AIDs. Dr. Gahagan is a longstanding HIV/AIDS researcher with particular expertise in the social and behavioral aspects of HIV/STI/HCV, gender and health, health policy and health equity. She will help liaise with HIV/AIDS-related institutions in Canada to assist with recruitment and provide consultation for issues concerning gendered aspects of vulnerability to HIV. She is a co-investigator of this project.

Yingying Huang

Yingying Huang is an Associate Professor in Sociology and the Deputy Director of the noted Institute of Sexuality and Gender at Renmin University, Beijing, China. She is also the organizer of the Biannual International Conference on Sexualities in China. She has a rich understanding about AIDS-related communities and networks in China and is experienced with international collaborative research. Dr. Huang has published books and articles (both in English and Chinese) on HIV/AIDS, sex workers, and sexuality in China. She brings her expertise in gender studies, women’s sexuality, HIV/AIDS-related NGOs, and socio-cultural aspects of HIV/AIDS to this study. She is a co-principal investigator of this project.

Nancy Johnson

Nancy Johnson is a health social scientist who has worked within the university setting and with several international and national research-based organizations in the areas of research development and knowledge translation. Previous research project management experience spans a broad range of areas including the design of culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS educational interventions in Zimbabwe; community-based maternal/child health programs for Latin American immigrants in Hamilton, Canada; decisions to withdraw life support in intensive care settings; and evaluation of knowledge translation platforms in low- and middle-income countries. Nancy is the former Project Manager.


Evelyne Micollier

Evelyne Micollier is a Research Fellow at the French Research Institute for Development (IRD). Having worked in China for many years, she is also the editor of several publications related to HIV/AIDS in Asia, such as Sexual Cultures in East Asia: The Social Construction of Sexuality and Sexual Risk in a Time of AIDS (2004).  Dr. Micollier is currently wrapping up a research project that is a partnership between IRD and Peking Union Medical College / Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (2006-2011) on health policies, social response and knowledge use and production in HIV/AIDS research, treatment and care (China). She brings her expertise in culture, sexuality, and international collaboration to the project. She is ca co-investigator of this project.

Christina Sinding

Christina Sinding is Associate Professor at the School of Social Work and the Department of Health, Aging and Society, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Her research focuses on women's health and health care; community-based cancer activism, care and support; the interface between formal and informal care; and innovative research representation / knowledge exchange, particularly research-based theatre. With an interdisciplinary research team, Dr. Sinding is currently conducting a CIHR-funded study that examines the social organization of cancer care, especially in relation to class privilege and disadvantage. A second study explores the ethical challenges described by Canadian-trained health professionals who have provided care through humanitarian agencies (PI Lisa Schwartz). Dr. Sinding contributes her expertise in determinants of health, knowledge translation, and structural analysis to the project. She is a co-investigator of this project.

Hong (Helen) Su

Helen Hong Su has a PhD in Sociology from Beijing University, China, and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Before immigrating to Canada, Dr. Su was an Associate Professor at Shanghai University. She brings to the project, research experience  related to migration and immigration issues in both China and Canada. Previous research projects include: “A Study of Forced Migration in China,” “The Strategies of Social Adaptation of the Three-Gorge Migrants,” “Guided Pathways Model for Settlement and Integration Sector in BC,” and “Immigrant Seniors' Living Arrangements and Housing Affordability in Greater Vancouver.” She is the Research Coordinator at the Vancouver study site.

Wei Wei

Wei Wei is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. He is highly knowledgeable about both Chinese and Western public and academic discourses on HIV and sexuality. His research and publications focus on queer identity and community building, urban movements, and HIV prevention. Dr. Wei is currently in the process of publishing his new book entitled, Going Public: The Production and Transformation of Queer Spaces in Contemporary Chengdu, China (Shanghai Sanlian Publishing House). He brings his expertise in sexuality studies, urban sociology and social movements to the study. He is a co-investigator of this project.

Y. Rachel Zhou

Rachel Zhou is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Work and the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition, McMaster University, Canada.  Her research focuses on the impacts of globalization processes (e.g., immigration, transnationalism, and neoliberalism) on human welfare and social welfare systems in local and transnational arenas. She is also the PI of a SSHRC-funded project (2007-2010) on transnational caregiving. She has published in the areas of HIV/AIDS, immigration, and social policy in various peer-reviewed journals, such as Health; Culture, Health & Sexuality; Social Science & Medicine; Global Social Policy and Journal of Aging Studies. She is the principal investigator of this project and the pilot project.


Chi Heng Foundation, Shanghai, China
Institute of Sexuality and Gender, Renmin University of China
Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), Toronto, Canada
St. Stephen’s House, Toronto, Canada


HIV/AIDS Related Community Events

Details forthcoming


Publications and Presentations from the Pilot Study

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Selected Relevant Publications by Team Members

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Useful Links

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If you are interested in more information about this project please contact mail to: Emmy Arnold (Project Manager) or Yanqiu Rachel Zhou (Principal Investigator).

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