While awareness of HIV in women has increased in recent years, gender disparities persist in the overall care of the disease.
"Despite all of the efforts and work that we've been doing for the past 17 years...we still have a lot of women in our community and across the country that are out of care and that are not successfully engaged in care," said
Elizabeth, an HIV service provider in San Diego.
Challenges in Preventing and Treating HIV in Women
Women face several challenges in preventing HIV infection1:
- Women may be unaware of their partner's risk factors
- Women are at high risk of HIV infection from unprotected vaginal intercourse
- Women who have experienced sexual abuse may be more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors
- Women with other sexually transmitted diseases may be at increased risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV
In addition, women with HIV may face structural barriers to care based on broader socioeconomic and cultural factors. "If we don't address things like poverty, racism, and gender-related health disparities, we're never going to change the engagement cascade," said Elizabeth. "The same factors that lead to women's risk in acquisition of HIV still exist after they get their status."
To help overcome these barriers to care, many HIV service providers offer comprehensive support for women with HIV and their families. "We really want these women to find the support system they need to ensure that they become virally suppressed or that they move further along in the treatment cascade," said Ingrid, an HIV service provider in New York City. "We also try to integrate gender responsiveness into the work. We have activities that children can do so that it doesn't distract the woman from getting the care that she needs."
- 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Among Women. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/risk_women.pdf.
Accessed October 30, 2013.
- 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Among Pregnant Women, Infants, and Children in the United States.
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/risk_WIC.pdf. Accessed October 30, 2013.