Objective: This paper responds to a gap in knowledge about the conceptualization of integration in community-based AIDS organizations (CBAOs).
Methods: A community-based process evaluation was conducted of a national intervention, developed by the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), to enhance treatment information provision in CBAOs and encourage its integration with prevention services. Our study involved 13 interviews with intervention participants in 6 CBAOs across Canada, CATIE staff, and funders, as well as a 25-person verification exercise.
Results: Intervention participants conceptualized integration as linking front-line HIV treatment, health promotion and prevention services, emphasizing mediation between scientific and lay knowledge, the political context of integration and the role of social determinants in clients' health and access to services. Challenges to integration include high staff turnover and inflexible funding structures. Complex health education related to the relationship between viral load and HIV transmission is a critical area of integrated service delivery.
Conclusion: Study findings help distinguish a community-based concept of HIV-related integration from alternative uses of the term while pointing out key tensions associated with efforts to integrate HIV prevention and treatment in a community-based context.