|An Advocate’s Perspective on Open Access: Experiences from Zhitong Guangzhou LGBT Center|
Our community-based organization collaborated with a research team investigating the use of crowdsourcing to expand HIV testing among men who have sex with men in China. Throughout this collaboration, our organization was able to mobilize and engage a large number of community members to participate in the research. After the results of this study were published in an open access journal , we were able to use the freely-available article in an evidence-based report to open a dialog about new HIV testing resources and strategies with officials in the local Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This resulted in new funding and resources for our organization, which enabled us to implement the innovative findings of the study of community members’ ideas to promote HIV testing. It also has deepened our relationship with and trust between our organization and the government. With increased open access to medical research findings, more of these kinds of opportunities and cooperative efforts will be possible.
The impact of open access is especially important in regions with limited opportunities to advocate for certain sensitive issues like expanded HIV services. Open access can help community-based organizations to access medical evidence to amplify their voice in a legitimate way and achieve their agendas for serving the local community. Additionally, open access publishing provides greater opportunities for inspiring people from the patient and/or affected community to become engaged in research and help to find solutions to health problems. Open access is important for advocates’ efforts to increase opportunities for community members to contribute their perspectives and wisdom on health issues, to corroborate (or challenge) medical findings, and to be a part of the research about them in a more intimate and personal way. Based on the experiences of our organization, open access is a revolution and represents the future for how to conduct and disseminate medical research.