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The number of women living with HIV in Canada has increased considerably over time.  Women face gender-based barriers to accessing treatment, care and support.  As HIV services were originally designed to cater to the needs of men who have sex with men (MSM), many women report that existing HIV service options do not address their unique needs as women.  

Women face gender-specific logistical barriers that stem from their social roles as primary caregivers for children, as well as responsibilities for maintaining the household. Inconvenient and limited hours of operation of health services, long wait times, and lack of childcare and/or child-friendly services for mothers act as barriers to health services and treatment access. Stigmatized attitudes and discrimination by healthcare providers toward women living with HIV who are mothers also contributes to avoidance of health services and supports.

Similarly, research and development of HIV treatments has historically focused on treatment success and side effects occurring in males.  Women are underrepresented in clinical trial research and this impacts the success of treatment for women.

Some women in Canada are more vulnerable to HIV than others, especially Indigenous women, Black, African and Caribbean women, women in prison and women who use drugs.  Experiences of abuse and related trauma influence the mental health of women living with HIV and can deter proactive measures to manage HIV infection, including seek and adhere to treatment, care and support.  Transgender women who live with HIV experience multiple layers of social marginalization and stigma that impact the quality of services available as well as willingness to use existing services.

The Tools for Access curriculum for women living with HIV is comprehensive and addresses the range of issues affecting women living with HIV. The curriculum provides consideration to the spectrum of women who are living with HIV including women of reproductive age, older women, single women, women in relationships, mothers, transgender women and women of different ethnic and cultural communities.  Workshops and materials are tailored to the specific capacity building needs of all women living with HIV and their providers. 

TFA Curriculum

TFA Fact Sheet