Information for Women
According to a UNAIDS report almost half of the adults living with HIV and AIDS today are women. The number of women and girls infected with HIV has increased in every region of the world, with rates rising particularly rapidly in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America. In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls already make up over 50% of adults living with HIV.
A stereotype exists that HIV is only a gay men’s disease. HIV stereotypes can prevent women, and their healthcare providers, from seeing themselves at risk of HIV infection. HIV is not a gay or straight or a male or female disease. HIV/AIDS is a human disease.
Some women do not access care and treatment as readily as men do, and their care and treatment needs may vary compared to men. The reasons are sometimes multiple and complex. Women have families and life responsibilities that they often put before their own healthcare. They may be isolated geographically and culturally and may fear rejection by family or their community. HIV-positive women are also often under-represented in research.
HIV positive women can benefit from HIV therapy as much as men. However, there appears to be some differences in the types of side effects and how often they occur (some less, some more) for women versus men.
Certain gynaecological conditions are more common, and sometimes more serious and/or more difficult to treat in HIV positive women than HIV negative women:
- Herpes simplex virus (genital herpes)
- Human papilloma virus (warts, dysplasia)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Fungal Infections (yeast infections, vaginal candidiasis)
- Menstrual (period) problems and early menopause.
HIV positive women should have regular gynaecological care and Pap smears (cervical cancer screening) since many gynaecological conditions do not have obvious symptoms and can get worse without obvious symptoms.
Menopause & HIV
Menopause (cessation of menstruation) is a natural process that usually occurs between ages 38 and 58 years, after gradual changes within the ovaries which slowly stop producing the sex hormone oestrogen.
Some studies have shown that women with HIV undergo menopause at an earlier age, but it is unclear if this is due to HIV or other lifestyle factors. Women with HIV more commonly have irregularities in their menstrual cycle that may be mistaken for menopause.
Living Well – Women with HIV is website containing support information about the key issues for women living with HIV in Australia (also available in limited print supplies as a resource booklet) http://www.womenlivingwell.org.au/
HIV & Women resource guide (created by NAM / Aidsmap) provides information for newly diagnosed women, and those living with HIV for some time, about a range of health care issues http://www.aidsmap.com/HIV-women/page/1550301/
Global Coalition of Women and AIDS (GCWA) provides useful information for women living with HIV around the world: http://womenandaids.unaids.org/
Femfatales (the National Australian Network of Women living with HIV) is an advisory group, constituted to provide collaboration between those involved in policy and advocacy work for women living with HIV in Australia: http://napwha.org.au/networks-members/femfatales
Straight Arrows, located in Victoria, have a range of resources, information and support for heterosexual women and men, their partners and family members, including a great fact sheet about Disclosing to Your Child http://straightarrows.org.au/downloads/Disclosing_to_your_child.pdf
Unravelling the Law: Guide for Women Living with HIV/AIDS. This guide, produced by The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) NSW, provides basic information on some of the legal issues faced by HIV-positive women http://halc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/women_living_with_HIV.pdf
Women and HIV is a useful website resource for Obstetrics-Gynaecology patients (pregnant and non-pregnant HIV-positive women) http://www.womenandhiv.org/
Antiretroviral treatment guidelines for HIV-positive women (including perinatal guidelines for women of child potential) can be found within the ASHM website treatment guidelines portal http://arv.ashm.org.au/arv-guidelines/special-patient-populations/hiv-infected-women
Events for Women
The Women’s Networking Zone (WNZ) is a community-led forum, which has been run in parallel to many recent International AIDS Conferences (IAC). The WNZ has grown into a vibrant, inclusive, and exciting space where community members, advocates, policy-analysts, decision-makers, service providers, and researchers share and learn. The WNZ promotes dialogue, forges new networks, raises the visibility of HIV, champions the leadership of women living with HIV (in particular young women and women from the local community), and promotes the global exchange of experiences, abilities, and knowledge. For more information, visit their website www.womensnetworkingzone.org or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/womensnetworkingzoneAIDS2016/.
QPP Women’s Connection Circle meets regularly for discussion and peer support. Contact QPP for further information on 07 3013 5555 or (toll free 1800 636 241) or (email) firstname.lastname@example.org