With International Women’s Day upon us, the newly launched the SHAWNA Project led by the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and University of British Columbia hopes to redress gender gaps in optimal sexual health and HIV treatment and care for Women Living With HIV (WLWH). The SHAWNA Project is a collaboration between a diverse team of academic, clinical, community, policy and Women Living with HIV experts, partnered with Positive Women’s Network, Oak Tree Clinic/ BC Women’s, Youth Co AIDS Society, WISH Drop-In Centre, BCCDC, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Aboriginal Health Research Program (UVIC), and many others.
Recent evidence in Canada and globally suggests that women account for a greater proportion of people living with HIV, and face sub-optimal access and retention in sexual health and HIV care and worse HIV outcomes. Given women’s HIV, sexual health and engagement in care are framed by complex social and structural contexts (e.g. stigma, criminalization of HIV, peer support and community engagement, migration, gendered institutional models of care, and incarceration), SHAWNA aims to interview and follow 500 WLWH over the next five years across Metro Vancouver as part of a multi-year study funded by CIHR. Through mixed methods research, SHAWNA hopes to document overtime women’s experiences navigating HIV, sexual and reproductive health and access to care to better understand policies and practices that best support health and social equity for WLWH.
Since April 2014, the team has been busy conducting consultations on priorities and research, with a special thanks to PWN, Oak Tree Clinic, IDC and YouthCo AIDS Society (see a summary of research priorities for WLWH and service providers here). The team recently hired and trained a team of Peer Research Associates of WLWH, co-facilitated by team members, Daniella Barretto (SHAWNA/Youth CO AIDS Society) and Flo Ranville (SHAWNA/ GSHI), who will be working closely with sexual health research nurses and outreach workers to roll-out the project across Metro Vancouver.