The full spectrum of how the HIV epidemic has impacted women in Ontario is a relatively new topic. This is, of course, despite women having been affected by HIV since the beginning. These are some of the challenges that face the women who live with or are at risk for HIV. They are manifold and they are ingrained, but they are not insurmountable.
Adhering to medications has the potential to bring about very positive results in the overall population. The thinking is that if you increase the number of HIV-positive people on treatment, you lower the total amount of virus circulating in a community and, ultimately, reduce the number of new HIV infections.
Racialized women and children, especially from the Global South often become the face of health issues as their faces (literally) are plastered on the websites and brochures of global health organizations. Their images usually accompanied by indicators of poverty and rural geographies and are offered to an audience as the justification for much needed programs.
HIV is a development issue not simply because of its detrimental impact on economic productivity and the health status of a community, but because low levels of socioeconomic development are actually creating a context in which HIV continues to be spread. When youth perceive their future prospects as exceedingly bleak, they are more inclined to partake in high-risk behaviour.
I am a woman living with HIV, but I am a woman first. As a woman, I have similar hopes, dreams and desires as women who are not HIV positive, including having a family. Twenty years ago when I was first diagnosed, people living with HIV were discouraged from having children due to lack of methods to prevent our children from becoming infected with HIV. Today, highly effective methods are available which, when taken correctly, can reduce the risk of HIV transmission to an infant to almost zero. Yet, despite volumes of medical evidence and thousands of children born HIV free globally, people living with HIV face judgement and condemnation when we choose to have children.
World AIDS Day is Saturday. How will you remember and commemorate? Last year alone, 1.7 million people worldwide died as a result of AIDS-related causes. Their deaths must not be in vain. In their memory let us take a more proactive stance in observing this special day this year. End HIV stigma now is a good message. But how? Complacency about AIDS is a major problem and education is still our only vaccine. But sometimes, somewhat surprisingly, even the educated need educating.
What relationship comes with a lifetime guarantee? So back in 1990, I was a man on a mission. I answered an ad from someone HIV-positive in Toronto looking for a serious relationship. Even today, people still have a reaction when you tell them you've dated an HIV-positive person. My friends were supportive of this relationship but my mother for years worried about my contacting HIV. Robert passed away a decade ago. Our relationship opened up a space in my heart that wasn't there before. Risking that initial date with fear taught me existence without love is as a lifeless as a corpse.