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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

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.

Go to William Coleman profile

William Coleman

Distinguished University Professor Emeritus | Fellow Royal Society of Canada | Founding Director of the IGHC

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.

Learn more about Jacqueline Gahagan

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 andJournal of Aging Studies. She is the principal investigator of this project and the pilot project.


photo of Y. Rachel Zhou

Y. Rachel Zhou

Professor / Graduate Chair of the School of Social Work


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


Publications and Presentations from the Pilot Study

Zhou, Y. R., Sinding, C., Arnold, E., Wei, W., Huang, Y.  Gahagan, J., Cain, R. Peng, L.,  Su, H.,  & Micollier, E., (accepted) “Chinese immigrants’ perceptions about and responses to HIV risk in interracial intimate relationships: Understanding power and agency in a transnational context”. Paper submitted to the 2015 CAHR Conference, April 30- May 3. 

Wei, W., Zhou, Y.R., Su, H., Huang, Y. & Gahagan, J.(2014)." Identity, Sexuality, and National Belongings: Transnational Masculinities of Chinese immigrants in Canada". Paper presented at "Translating Chinese Masculinities: Chinese Men in Global Context” Conference, University of Hong Kong, Dec 11-13. 

Zhou, Y. R., Huang, Y., Cain, R., Wei, W., Sinding, C., Gahagan, J., Su, H., Arnold. E., Micollier, E., & Johnson, N. (2014) “Theoretical promise and practical challenges: Reflections on an ongoing international project on transnationalism and HIV risk”. Paper presented at the 2014 CAHR Conference, May 1-4.

Sinding, C., Zhou, Y. R., Wei, W., Huang, Y., Cain, R., Su, H., Arnold, E., Gahagan, J., Bao, Y., & Micollier, E. (2014) “The Migration of Desire: Chinese Immigrants' Accounts of Sexuality and Intimate Relationships in Transnational Contexts”. Paper presented to the 2014 CAHR Conference, May 1-4.

Zhou, Y.R. (2012) Changing behaviours and continuing silence: Sex in the post-immigration lives of mainland Chinese immigrants in Canada. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 14(1): 87-110. 

Zhou, Y.R. & Coleman, W. (2011) "It’s a forced separation … and we’ve got used to this kind of life": Changing dynamics of HIV risk in the context of immigration. International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, 7(1): 5-15. 

Zhou, Y. R. (2011) The changing relationship between public and private domains: Understanding the sex/sexuality of and relevant health risk concerning Chinese immigrants in Canada (in Chinese). Paper presented at Rights and Diversities: The 3rd International Conference on Sexualities in China, Beijing, China, June 21-23, 2011.

Zhou, Y.R., & Coleman, W.  (2011) Overwhelming uncertainties and contested threats: A contextual understanding of the HIV risk faced by Chinese immigrants in Canada. Paper presented at the 20th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research, Toronto, Canada, April 14-17.

Zhou, Y.R., Coleman, W., & Majumdar, B., Peng, L., and Ji, X. (2010) Globalization, transnationalism, and multiculturalism: Some reflections on HIV/AIDS services for Chinese immigrants in Canada. Paper presented at the 2010 OHTN (Ontario HIV Treatment Network) Research Conference, Toronto, Canada, November 15-16.

Zhou, Y.R., (2010) Sexual health risks faced by Chinese immigrant women in Canada. Invited presentation, International Women’s Day Celebrating Asian Women’s Sexual Health Information Session, Asian Community AIDS Services, Toronto, Canada, March 6.

Zhou, Y.R., Coleman, W., & Majumdar, B. (2009) Living in "transnational spaces": An exploration of the influence of the home country on the HIV risk facing recent Chinese immigrants in Canada. Paper presented at the 2009 OHTN (Ontario HIV Treatment Network) Research Conference, Toronto, Canada, 16-17 November.

Zhou, Y.R., Coleman, W., & Majumdar, B. (2008)."Can you change your project title?": Learning from the key informants of a HIV research project. Paper presented at the 2008 OHTN (Ontario HIV Treatment Network) Research Conference, Toronto, Canada, November 13-14.

Selected Relevant Publications by Team Members

Arnold, E., Lane, S., Qualitative research in transfusion medicine. Transfusion Medicine (October 2011), 21 (5), pg. 291-300.

Arnold, E., Qualitative research: palliative care in Africa. Student BMJ 2009; 17:b1954.

Cain, R., Jackson, R., Prentice, T., Collins, E., Mill, J., and Barlow, K. (2011) Depression among Aboriginal people living with HIV in Canada, Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 30(1): 105-20.

Cain, R. and Todd, S. (2009) The changing treatment context and its influence on HIVAIDS social services, Qualitative Social Work8(2): 249-65.

Cain, R. and Todd, S. (2008) Managing change and constraint in HIV/AIDS social services, Journal of HIV/AIDS Social Services, 7(3): 265-87.

Coleman, W.D. (ed.) (2011) Property, Territory, Globalization: struggles over autonomy, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Coleman, W.D. and Brydon, D. (2009) Globalization and Autonomy: an overview, Globalizations, 6(3): 323–38.

Coleman, W.D. and Dionisio, J. (2009) Globalization, collaborative research and cognitive justice, Globalizations, 6(3): 389–403.

Coleman, W.D. and Johnson, N.A. (2008) Building dialogue on globalization research: What are the obstacles and how might they be addressed? Globalization and Autonomy Online Compendium.

Coleman, W.D. and Wayland, S. (2006) The origins of global civil society and non-territorial governance: some empirical reflections, Global Governance, 12(3):241-62.

Gahagan, J., Jason, T., and Pender, C. (2011) Promoting adolescent males’ health: utilization of school-based youth health centers in Nova Scotia, Canada. Journal of Community Medicine & Health Education, 1:112.

Gahagan, J. (2007) Gender and research theory, design and implementation, in B. Prince, S. Pugh and S. Kleintjes (eds.) Skills-building for Gender Mainstreaming in HIV/AIDS Research and Practice. Seminar proceedings. South Africa: HSRC Press.

Gahagan, J., Sweeney, E., Worthington, C., Perry, D., Satzinger, F., Rogers E. (2008) Ethics issues for HIV/AIDS researchers in international settings - perspectives from the Canadian experience. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 12(6):569-72.

Gould, J., Sinding, C., Mitchell, T., and Fitch, M. (2009) Listening for echoes: how social location matters in women’s experiences of cancer care, in J. Nelson, J. Gould and S. Keller-Olaman (eds.) Cancer on the Margins: method and meaning in participatory research, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Gould, J., Sinding, C., Mitchell, T., Gustafson, D., Peng, I., McGillicuddy, P., Fitch, M., Aronson, J., Burhansstipanov, L. (2009) "Below their notice”: exploring women's subjective experiences of cancer system exclusion, Journal of Cancer Education, 24(4): 308-14.

Guenter, D., Gillett, J., Cain, R., Pawluch, D., and Travers, R. (2010) What do people with HIV/AIDS expect from their physicians? Professional expertise and the doctor patient relationship, Journal of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (JIAPAC), 9: 341-45.

Heddle, N., Eyles J., Webert, K., Arnold, E., McCurdy, B., A policy informing qualitative study to improve the process of blood product recalls and withdrawals. Transfusion [2008], Dec: 48 (12): 2585-2595.

Huang, Y., et al. (2012) Understanding the diversity of male clients of sex workers in China and the implications for HIV prevention programmes, Global Public Health, 7 February.

Huang, Y., et al. (2011) Changes and correlates in multiple sexual partnerships among Chinese adult women - population based surveys in 2000 and 2006, AIDS Care, 23: 96-104.

Huang, Y. (2010) Female sex workers in China: their occupational concerns, in J. Jing and H. Worth (eds.), HIV in China, Sydney: UNSW Press, 45-64.

Huang, Y., (2007) Emerging concepts of sexiness: the sexual body and young Chinese women,  Sexuality in Southeast Asia and China: Emerging Issues, South and Southeast Asia Consortium on Sexuality, Gender and Sexual Health, 179-216.

Jackson, L., Dykeman, M., Gahagan, J., Karabanow, J., and Parker, J. (2011) Challenges and opportunities to integrating family members of injection drug users into harm reduction efforts within the Atlantic Canadian context, International Journal of Drug Policy July 13, 2011.

Jeffreys, E. and Huang, Y. (2009) Governing sexual health in the People's Republic of China, in E. Jeffreys (ed.) China's Governmentalities: governing change, changing government, London: Routledge.

Johnson, N.A. (2006) AIDS pandemic, Globalization and Autonomy Online Compendium

Johnson, N.A. (2006) UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Globalization and Autonomy Online Compendium

Micollier, E. (2012) Sexualised illness and gendered narratives: the problematic of social science and humanities in China's HIV and AIDS governance, International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (IJAPS), 8(1): 103-24.

Micollier, E. and de Bruyn, P-H. (2011) The institutional transmission of Chinese medicine: a typology of the main issues, China Perspectives 86:23-32 (version française: Perspectives chinoises, n°116: 24-33).

Micollier, E. (2011) Un savoir thérapeutique hybride et mobile. Eclairage sur la recherche médicale en médecine chinoise en Chine aujourd'hui, in L. Pordié éd. Savoirs thérapeutiques asiatiques et globalisation, Revue d'Anthropologie des Connaissances, 5(1): 41-70.

Micollier, E. and Guillou, A. (2010) Anthropologie et santé en Asie du sud-est: dynamiques et courants de recherche, Revue de recherche en sciences humaines sur l'Asie du sud-est, n°15: 177-93.

Micollier, E. (ed.) (2009) Chinese society confronted with AIDS: social responses and cultural politics, Special Feature, China Perspectives 77 (Version française: Perspectives chinoises, n°106).

Micollier, E. (ed.) (2004) Sexual cultures in East Asia. The social construction of sexuality and sexual risk in a time of AIDS, London: Routledge.

Numer, M.S. and Gahagan, J. (2009) The sexual health of gay men in the post-AIDS era: feminist, post-structuralist and queer theory perspectives, International Journal of Men's Health, 8(2):155-168.

Pan, S.M. and Huang, Y. (2011) The rise of rights and pleasure: towards a diversity of sexuality and gender, in K.N. Zhang (ed.) Sexual and reproductive health in China, Leiden; Boston: Brill, 215-262.

Pauly, L.W. and Coleman, W.D. (eds.) (2010) Global Ordering: Institutions and Autonomy in a Changing World, (Chinese trans.) Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press.

Sinding, C. (2010) Using institutional ethnography to understand the production of health care disparities, Qualitative Health Research, 20(12): 1656-63.

Sinding, C., Gould, J., and Gray, R. (2009) Making a difference with research, in J. Nelson, J. Gould and S. Keller-Olaman (eds.)Cancer on the Margins: method and meaning in participatory research, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Sinding, C., Barnoff, L., Grassau, P., Odette, F., and McGillicuddy, P. (2009) The stories we tell: processes and politics of research representation, in J. Nelson, J. Gould and S. Keller-Olaman (eds.) Cancer on the Margins: method and meaning in participatory research, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Sinding, C., Grassau, P., and Barnoff, L. (2006) Community support, community values: the experiences of lesbians diagnosed with cancer, Women & Health, 44(2): 59-79.

Sinding, C., and Gray, R. (2005) Active aging – spunky survivorship?  Discourses and experiences of the years beyond breast cancer,  Journal of Aging Studies 19: 147-61.

Sinding, C., and Aronson, J. (2003)  Exposing failures, unsettling accommodations: Tensions in interview practice, Qualitative Research 3(1): 95-117.

Su, H. (2005) The strategies of social adaptation adopted by the Three-Gorge migrants, Si Xiang Zhan Xian, 31: 60-65.

Su, H. (2005) The vulnerable groups in today's China, Social Science Forum, Academic Criticism, (3).

Bhatia, V. and Coleman, W.D. (2003) Ideas and discourse: Reform and resistance in the
Canadian and German health systems, Canadian Journal of Political Science, 36(4): 715-39.

Wei, W. (forthcoming) From symbolic annihilation to censored publicity: if you are the one (homosexual), you are the freak, in W. Lingzhen and M.A. Doane (eds) Gender and Chinese Cinema: New Interventions. New York: Columbia University Press.

Wei, W. (2011) "酷儿"视角下的城市性和空间政治 (A queer inquiry of urbanism and spatial politics (in Chinese), Human Geography, 26(1).

Wei, W. (2009) 消费主义和 “同志”空间:都市生活的另类欲望地图 (Consumerism and queer/tongzhi space: a map of alternative desire in urban life (in Chinese), Society, 29 (4).

Wei, W. (with Jiang Hua, Charles Damien Lu, Zhang Jianxin, Gu Yi, Sean R. Dickson, Jiang Hui) (2009) 中国男男性行为群体HIV干预面临的挑战:基于社区和已发表证据的初步评价 (Challenges towards HIV/AIDS prevention among Chinese MSMs: a primary evaluation based on community and publication evidences (in Chinese), Journal of Preventive Medicine Information, 25(7).

Wei, W. (2007) 'Wandering men' no longer wander around: the production and transformation of local homosexual identities in postsocialist Chengdu, China, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 8(4): 572-88.

Wei, W. (2007) 城里的 “飘飘”:成都本地同性恋身份的形成和变迁” ('Wandering men' in the city: the production of homosexual identities in Chengdu, China (in Chinese), Society, 27(1).

Zhou, Y. R. (in press). Space, time, and self: rethinking aging in the contexts of immigration and transnationalism. Journal of Aging Studies.

Zhou, Y.R. (2010) The phenomenology of time: Lived experiences of people with HIV/AIDS in China, Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 14: 310-25.

Zhou, Y.R. (2008) Endangered 'womanhood': Women's experiences with HIV/AIDS in China, Qualitative Health Research, 18:1115-26.

Zhou, Y.R. (2007) “If you get AIDS...You have to endure it alone”: Understanding the social constructions of HIV/AIDS in China,Social Science & Medicine, 65(2): 284-95.

Zhou, Y.R. (2006) Homosexuality, seropositivity, and family obligations: Perspectives of HIV-infected men who have sex with men in China, Culture, Health & Sexuality, 8(6): 487-500.

Sakamoto, I. and Zhou, Y.R. (2005) Gendered nostalgia: the experiences of Chinese new skilled immigrants in Canada. In V. Agnew (ed) Diaspora, memory, identity: a search for home, Toronto, Buffalo & London: University of Toronto Press, pp. 209-29.

Useful Links

Canadian AIDS Legal Network
The Canadian AIDS Legal Network promotes the human rights of people living with, and vulnerable to, HIV/AIDS in Canada and internationally through research and analysis, advocacy and litigation, public education and community mobilization. The Legal Network is Canada's leading advocacy organization working on legal and human rights issues raised by HIV/AIDS.

CERIS Centre – The Ontario Metropolis Centre
The CERIS Centre is a consortium of Toronto-area universities and community partners. It is one of five such research centres across Canada established under the Metropolis Project. Citizenship and Social, Cultural and Civic Integration is a key research and policy domain. It also encourages interdisciplinary work, including "cultural modes and creative arts representing immigrant and diasporic identity(ies)."

Chinese Foundation for the Prevention of STD and AIDS (accessible in English and Chinese) Founded in 1988 (formerly named the Global Foundation for STD and AIDS), it is one of the earliest non-governmental organizations in China, aiming to carry out prevention and control of HIV/AIDS.

UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, brings together the efforts and resources of ten UN system organizations to the global AIDS response.

UNWomen: Gender and AIDS
UNIFEM, in collaboration with UNAIDS, has developed a site that aims to promote understanding, knowledge sharing and action on HIV/AIDS as a gender and human rights issue.

World Bank Institute (WBI)
WBI is the capacity development arm of the World Bank and helps countries share and apply global and local knowledge to meet development challenges. The WBI has a host of resources and links to documents that touch on HIV/AIDS and gender.

photo of Y. Rachel Zhou

Y. Rachel Zhou

Professor / Graduate Chair of the School of Social Work


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

Contact Yanqiu Rachel Zhou