The value of investing time and energy to assess key programs
An HC Link interview with Gilles Marchildon and Carlos Idibouo, of Action positive: VIH/sida
Action positive: VIH/sida (APVS) is a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to supporting French-speaking people and communities in Toronto who are living with, affected by or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
What role does APVS play?
Carlos: The mission of APVS is to offer prevention, education and psychosocial support programs to people who are living with, affected by or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. In concrete terms, these programs and services take the form of activities such as:
- Jeudi ça presse – an "open door" program on the first Thursday of each month;
- Franc parler – a group for gay and bisexual men ;
- Woodgreen and New Horizons projects – primarily serving people 50 years or over, these workshops deal with nutritional health, age-related chronic diseases, and HIV/AIDS and aging;
- Psychosocial interventions for people with special-needs;
- A support group for women living with HIV/AIDS
What realities do the francophone communities you work with face?
Carlos: Since APVS is dedicated exclusively to fighting HIV/AIDS and offers programs and services to French-speaking people who are affected by the virus or at risk of infection, most of the people we work with are living with HIV. The majority are on social assistance, so their incomes are very low. Program participants are principally: gay, bisexual and trans men; men who have sex with other men; lesbian, bisexual, trans and heterosexual women of African and Caribbean origin. Targeted French-language services for these people are in short supply, especially in two areas: the fight against HIV/AIDS and sexual health in general. As a result, our program participants are forced to navigate a very complex system, and with few resources.
What was the goal of the evaluation you performed in consultation with HC Link?
Gilles: We wanted to better understand the results of our main monthly activity, "Jeudi, ça presse" (a talk, presentation or workshop over a meal, held on the first Thursday of every month).
What were the results of your efforts?
Gilles: Through supportive coaching over a period of several months, we put finishing touches on our evaluation questionnaire, confirmed that the activity is appreciated (and should therefore remain as part of our program) and identified future directions (especially for group activities intended to cultivate a greater sense of belonging).
Can you talk about the overall importance of an evaluation initiative?
Gilles: It is crucial to make an occasional investment of time and energy in order to better understand the goals we want to achieve and how various activities can take us in that desired direction. An evaluation can yield important evidence (such as confirming that the activity is important and working well) and sometimes uncover surprises (such as potential new directions for an activity or a program).
Carlos: Evaluating the program(s) is very important since it helps us to understand their relevance and to make adjustments based on the participants' needs. It also supports us to develop performance indicators and compare them to the funders' objectives.