Key Considerations for Women Living with HIV

 

Women make up approximately 49% of all people living with HIV worldwide, and face many unique challenges with regards to prevention, care, and treatment. This includes, but is not limited to barriers surrounding access to proper care, stigma, discrimination, gender norms, other familial priorities, and issues related to gynecological care.  It is important to understand the considerations for women living with HIV in an effort to improve their health outcomes and prevent further transmissions.

 

 

 

Epidemiology of HIV in Women

Of the 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, 50% of them are women. Women represent more than half (58%) of all people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa with HIV infection the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Women are vulnerable to HIV infection because of social factors, such as gender inequalities in many societies, differential access to services, and sexual violence. This is compounded by a woman's biological susceptibility to HIV infection, especially younger women. Globally, young women are twice as likely to become infected with HIV as their male counterparts; in some areas they are more impacted than young men.


Health Maintenance

Women's health concerns and screening needs differ from males. Non-AIDS defining cancers are increasing in incidence for both males and females living with HIV. Overall cancer risk for PLWHIV is elevated, with estimates placing risk at about twice as much as the general population.This increase may be partially due to a high prevalence of cancer risk factors in PLWHIV.


Contraception

Family Planning is essential for women living with HIV in regards to when to have children, the use of birth control, and overall reproductive health.  Public health advocates cite family planning as being integral to reducing poverty, hunger, and promoting environmental sustainability as well as reducing mortality and morbidity for women and their children.


Preconception Counseling

Preconception Counseling is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the provision of biomedical, behavioral and social health interventions to women and couples before conception occurs, aimed at improving their health status, and reducing behaviors and individual and environmental factors that could contribute to poor maternal and child health outcomes. Its ultimate aim is improved maternal and child health outcomes, in both the short and long term.


Screening for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Defined by the World Health Organization as behavior by an intimate partner that causes physical, sexual, or psychological harm, including acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse, and controlling behaviors. The definition applies to violence by both current as well as former spouses and other intimate partners.