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Co-Creation To Help Advance Health Equity

CAAN & Gilead Sciences Canada partner to support Indigenous communities living with or at risk of HIV and viral hepatitis…

Meaningful change requires thoughtful listening and collaboration. When CAAN Communities, Alliances & Networks and Gilead Sciences Canada began work on developing the GLOWS Indigenous Health Grant to support Indigenous communities with or at risk of HIV and viral hepatitis, they knew the road ahead would need to be guided by open conversation and a shared mission to drive action.

An opportunity for positive change

Indigenous people continue to experience a significantly higher incidence of HIV and viral hepatitis infections compared to non-Indigenous populations. While Indigenous Peoples make up five per cent of Canada’s total population, they represent 18 per cent of all new HIV infections, and are two to five times more likely to acquire hepatitis C than non-Indigenous groups.1, 2

More than just health issues, these illnesses are the scars of colonialism and structural oppression which persist today. Indigenous communities continue to face systemic barriers that hinder their access to care.

To begin addressing these inequities, Gilead Sciences Canada approached CAAN, the only national Indigenous-led organization with HIV and viral hepatitis care at the core of their mission, to co-create a grant program that would help reduce the transmission of these diseases in Indigenous communities. The program would align with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to highlight the value of Indigenous healing practices, and bridge the gap between traditional medicines and western diagnosis and treatment.

“Indigenous ways of knowing and doing are essential to the health of our communities, and that includes the many Indigenous Peoples across this land who continue to live with HIV and viral hepatitis,” says Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis, Okimaw and CEO for CAAN. “We welcomed this opportunity to join hands with Gilead to help ensure our communities can access the care they need.”

ABOVE: CAAN Elder in Residence Betty McKenna and GLOWS grant project coordinator Tawnya Crowshoe at the Grant launch. (Candy Fox Photography)

Partners above all

CAAN and Gilead marked the beginning of their partnership in April 2022 with a bundle ceremony led by CAAN Elder in Residence Betty McKenna. In the months that followed, CAAN generously shared their guidance and expertise to ensure the joint effort would align with Indigenous teachings and address the real needs of Indigenous Peoples on this land now known as Canada. Together, the organizations worked to set their shared goals, determine their opportunity to create impact and develop a program that prioritizes accessibility and equity.

For Christophe Griolet, general manager and vice-president for Gilead Sciences Canada, it was critical that the grant program be co-led with a community leader like CAAN.

“At Gilead, we are committed to promoting health equity through robust community partnerships, and the GLOWS grant is a shining example of that commitment coming to life,” says Griolet. “The grant’s framework was developed hand-in-hand with CAAN to ensure it would be supportive of Indigenous Peoples’ right to autonomously shape their own path towards healing.”

This co-creation gave birth to the GLOWS Indigenous Health Grant: Guiding Local Opportunities for Wellbeing. Brought into ceremony and officially opened for applications on September 21, the GLOWS Grant is a three-year commitment that aims to advance health equity within Indigenous communities by enhancing engagement in cultural, HIV and viral hepatitis care. 

ABOVE: Cristophe Griolet, GM and vice-president, Gilead Sciences Canada, and Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis, Okimaw/CEO of CAAN, attending the GLOWS Grant launch event in Regina. (Candy Fox Photography)

Bringing it to life

The GLOWS Grant offers a financial commitment of US$3 million USD (approximately C$4 million) over three years and is open to Indigenous-led organizations whose work aims to improve the holistic health and well-being of Indigenous populations, with a specific emphasis on addressing HIV and viral hepatitis.

Funded initiatives will be guided by Indigenous ways of knowing and doing, and align with at least one of the grant’s funding priorities: Education, Peer Support & Navigation, Holistic Care and Capacity Building.

CAAN and Gilead are supported by the Indigenous Advisory Circle, a national group consisting of seven representatives who reflect the diverse Indigenous population across Canada and bring with them years of experience supporting Indigenous people living with or at risk of HIV and viral hepatitis. These individuals will play an important role in shaping the program to align seamlessly with the vision and priorities of Indigenous communities.

Looking to the future

“I’m excited to see this program come to life after our months of collaboration and thoughtful work,” says Kisikaw Piyesis. “My hope is that this program can serve as an example of how existing health systems can work with Indigenous communities and enable real change.”

The GLOWS Grant is Gilead Sciences’ largest global commitment to health equity for Indigenous communities in Canada and Australia. They are pledging a total of US$6 million in funding over three years with the hope of expanding its reach to more communities in the years to come.

The first cohort of funded projects in Canada will be announced in December 2023. For more information about the program, visit

GLOWS is a collaboration between Gilead Sciences Canada, Inc. and CAAN. Funding is provided through grants which are assessed and administered by CAAN. Gilead is not involved in the selection and assessment of Grant applications and Grantees. 

1. Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. CAAN UNDRIP Action Plan. March 2023.
2. Dunn, K. P., Williams, K. P., Egan, C. E., Potestio, M. L., & Lee, S. S. (2022). Echo+: Improving access to hepatitis C care within indigenous communities in Alberta, Canada. Canadian Liver Journal, 5(2), 113–123.

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