One of the most memorable moments in my 20 years working in the HIV field happened in a standing-room-only meeting hall in Vienna at the International AIDS Conference in 2010. This was the moment that the clinical trial CAPRISA 004 announced proof-of-concept for prevention of HIV among women using a vaginal microbicide (1% tenofivir gel). The entire room broke out in a standing ovation and tears of joy. Finally! A prevention tool that could allow a woman to protect herself in sexual encounters, regardless of the desires and wishes of her sexual partner. Five years later, microbicides have not yet come to fruition. But pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) holds the same great promise.
Lesbian, bisexual and queer women are rarely included in HIV research. Women who have sex with women, and their HIV infection rates, are not captured anywhere because women cannot report having a woman as a sexual partner in Canada’s HIV statistics. The current record only allows women to report HIV exposure either through injection drug use or heterosexual sex. This contributes to the erasure of women’s sexual and gender diversity and fluidity in HIV research. Queer* women are ignored in HIV research: this is a problem and here is why it matters.
In Canada and in much of the Western world, thanks to the advent of combination antiretroviral therapy, there has been a clear improvement in health status and increased life expectancy of people living with HIV approaching that of the general population. However, despite these medical advances, negative public perception about HIV has yet to catch up to the reality that most clinicians encounter. The reality for the most part is of healthy and conscientious patients looking to improve their quality of life.
The CATIE Blog hosts the views and opinions of people and organizations working and volunteering in Canada’s response to HIV and hepatitis C.