Women’s health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health 2017 09 05() pii 10.1016/j.whi.2017.08.001
Women comprise nearly one-quarter of people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Canada. Compared with men, women living with HIV experience inequities in HIV care and health outcomes, prompting a need for gendered and tailored approaches to HIV care.
Peer and academic researchers from the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study conducted focus groups to understand women’s experience of seeking care, with the purpose of identifying key characteristics that define a women-centered approach to HIV care. Eleven focus groups were conducted with 77 women living with HIV across Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, Canada.
Women envisioned three central characteristics of women-centered HIV care, including i) coordinated and integrated services that address both HIV and women’s health care priorities, and protect against exclusion from care due to HIV-related stigma, ii) care that recognizes and responds to structural barriers that limit women’s access to care, such as violence, poverty, motherhood, HIV-related stigma, and challenges to safe disclosure, and iii) care that fosters peer support and peer leadership in its design and delivery to honor the diversity of women’s experiences, overcome women’s isolation, and prioritize women’s ownership over the decisions that affect their lives.
Despite advances in HIV treatment and care, the current care landscape is inadequate to meet women’s comprehensive care needs. A women-centered approach to HIV care, as envisioned by women living with HIV, is central to guiding policy and practice to improve care and outcomes for women living with HIV in Canada.