5 Questions with Janet Madsen, Capacity Building and Knowledge Translation Coordinator  

Janet Madsen joined the PAN team in April 2017 as the Capacity Building and Knowledge Translation Coordinator. Janet has worked in BC’s HIV communities for over 20 years, primarily with Positive Women’s Network, as well as on a few small contracts with PAN over the last few years. Janet has lived in different parts of Canada. She and her partner Tracy live with their two teens and scruffy dog, Miller.


What first piqued your interest in the HIV and/or HCV  sector?

I got involved in the HIV community when I came out in the queer community many years ago, and men I knew were getting sick. I took part in public activism and marches to fight stigma and make queers visible. I saw homophobia play a huge part in stigma and as I learned more about HIV itself, I became interested in the scientific research as well.

I was lucky enough to find a job that mixed my interest in the social justice aspects of HIV work with improving health literacy about the disease. I worked with Positive Women’s Network for a long time supporting women to learn more about their illness and become empowered to address discrimination in many ways.

One of the things I love about doing this work is that it is driven by passionate people who are committed to great change.


How do you see the impact of your work in the “real world”?

My kids will tell you about the impact in their immediate real world! They roll their eyes and say, “Yes mom…” when I get going on social justice or sexual health. Over the years of my immersion in HIV and more recently, HCV work, I have talked with lots of people – other parents, teachers at my kids’ schools, people I meet – about HIV, HCV, and the social realities of health overall. I hope that my words and work have had an impression on people in the big scheme of things.


How do you engage the community in your work?

Input from PAN member groups is a huge part of how my role takes shape. I work with Stacy to develop capacity-building events (conferences, trainings and webinars). I support the development of webinars; Stacy and I partner up with people from member groups and health authorities to hear what communities need and sort out how to provide it in our events.

I also work with the CBR and Evaluation team on knowledge translation, Currently, Heather (Picotte) and Heather (Holroyd) and I are developing the data analysis and knowledge translation stage of the BC People Living with HIV Stigma Index Project. I’m working with the Steering Committee and Peer Research Associates to explore what knowledge translation tools they want to come out of the research.

I use input from the Members and Allies Survey and direct communication with people to develop material for PAN’s website and manage the PAN Weekly News to keep members informed of updates and opportunities.


If you had unlimited funds, which area would you invest in?

To further PAN’s work overall and programs, I would suggest more funding for programming and projects that address the layers of stigma that surround HIV and HCV. Stigma reduction can be a moving target, because it can play out in really obvious and subtle ways. It encompasses so much- homophobia, judgment around how people live their lives sexually, views on drug use and substance dependence, poverty and the idea of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and other judgments. Stigma is an ongoing challenge and conversation.

An  area that’s outside HIV, but can influence HIV outcomes is literacy. Years ago I was a literacy tutor and that experience has stayed with me. If you can’t read, or struggle with reading and understanding what is written or said, it can influence so much in your life. Not understanding how to read a medication label and take medication properly could possibly kill you. So I’d direct funds to literacy as well, because addressing that foundation can impact many areas of a person’s life.


If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent or superpower you’d like to be gifted with and why?

That’s a hard one! Spiderman’s skills are taken (and I dislike walking through spider webs, so I might not want that one anyway). I’m going to go with shapeshifting like Jack Jack in The Incredibles, because I would love to be a crow for a day.