Fife House is committed to the principles of the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV and/or AIDS (GIPA) and the Meaningful Engagement of People Living with HIV and/or AIDS (MEPA) as reflected in the Ontario Accord; which are meant to ensure the organizational commitment to embody and operationalize the principles of GIPA and MEPA in all areas of Fife House’s work: from governance to fundraising, service delivery, program planning, education and training, and client support.

For many years, Fife House has championed the involvement and engagement of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs). In 2011, Fife House formally joined a coalition of organizations in Ontario to sign the Ontario Accord; which is a statement created by the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN) allowing organizations to formally endorse the principles of GIPA/MEPA.

“GIPA is not a project or program it is a principle that aims to realize the rights and responsibilities of people living with HIV, including the right to self-determination and participation in decision-making processes that affect their lives”. – OAN

GIPA/MEPA is always a work in progress. It is about renewing our commitment and ensuring our practices at all levels of the organization to ensure the engagement, investment and participation of people with HIV. In 2015, Fife House created the GIPA Advisory Committee as one of the ways to actively advance GIPA/MIPA in our day-to-day operations. Today, Fife House has Peers involved in every area of the organization, including our volunteer program, paid Peer opportunities, our Board of Directors, and as staff members.

Benefits of Peer Programming:

  • Peers feel valued for their knowledge, experience and their impact on the lives of participants.
  • Peers learn new, transferable skills and knowledge through work experience and training opportunities.
  • People form new relationships that build connections and in increased sense of belonging.
  • Peers experience increased self-esteem and confidence.
  • Peers are less reliant on services.
  • Peers learn to self-advocate as they navigate services and systems.
  • Participants have increased accessed to relevant and meaningful information and knowledge.
  • Participants feel that the staff can better relate to their experiences and can represent those experiences in the organization’s planning and evaluation activities.
  • Participants feel understood, valued, respected due to peer engagement.
  • Non-peer staff learn new skills and knowledge.
  • Peers are engaged in community building work.

The HIV response in Canada has a long history of involving and engaging PHAs. Some of these moments have resulted in changes to health care practices, and have been articulated in many resources, trainings and implemented at AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs). These foundational developments have been possible due to the work of key activities such as the Denver Principles (1983), the Montreal Manifesto (1989), the Paris Declaration (1994), and the NGOs Code of Good Practice (2004) where MEPA was instituted.

For more information on the Key Activities mentioned above or to review the full Accord and related content, click here.

Want to build your leadership skills and personal capacity as a PHA? Check out the Positive Leadership Development Institute of the Ontario AIDS Network here.