Forward: Population-specific HIV/AIDS status report: Women

Foreward

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), with the support of many partners, is pleased to release this status report as the third of eight reports intended to summarize current evidenceFootnote 1 about the impact of HIV/AIDS among key populations in Canada. Communities, governments, public health practitioners, non-governmental organizations, researchers and others are encouraged to use this report to inform the future direction of HIV/AIDS policy, programming and research to positively affect the health and well-being of Canadian women.

This series of status reports was initiated to support the actions set out in The Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in CanadaFootnote 2, the Government of Canada’s framework for federal investment in HIV/AIDS, and to provide a comprehensive evidence base for other partners and stakeholders involved in the Canadian response. Launched in 2005, the Federal Initiative identifies the need for more effective interventions and improved HIV/AIDS prevention, research, diagnosis, care, treatment and support initiatives for specific populations with, or at risk of, HIV and AIDS. These populations include people living with HIV/AIDS, gay men, people who use injection drugs, Aboriginal peoples, people in federal prisons, youth at risk, women, and people from countries where HIV is endemic.

In addition, these status reports support the objectives of the report Leading Together: Canada Takes Action on HIV/AIDS (2005-2010)Footnote 3. Developed and launched by stakeholders in 2005, Leading Together renews Canada’s collective efforts to deal with not only HIV/AIDS but also with the underlying health and social issues that contribute to new infections and have devastating effects on people who are living with HIV/AIDS. Leading Together encourages collaboration and the sharing of knowledge, skills and resources so that together we can stop HIV.

This status report was guided by a national working group with expertise in research, epidemiology, community development, policy and program development, public health, and the lived experiences of women living with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS. Their input and advice was instrumental in ensuring that the report presents the most current, relevant evidence and innovative responses that exist in Canada today.

This population-specific HIV/AIDS status report focuses on how HIV/AIDS affects Canadian women. This is the first time PHAC has presented HIV/AIDS-related information relevant to this population in a comprehensive manner. The decision to focus on women stems from a need to better understand how women’s experiences affect their lives and create resilience or increase vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. The report takes an intersectional approach and recognizes that women are not a homogenous population.  For instance, social differences related to diversity and equity may, in some cases, be more important than shared gender identity in understanding women’s lived experiences.

The preparation of this report has yielded a number of lessons that will influence future reports in this series. As is the case in any work of this nature, limitations were encountered in the data gathering, analysis and reporting phases. Nevertheless, the report is comprehensive and includes valuable information to further our knowledge and understanding of HIV/AIDS among women. PHAC welcomes comments on the report to assist with the development of future population-specific HIV/AIDS status reports.

After 25 years of collective commitment and investment, HIV/AIDS continues to be a major public health challenge that requires a concerted, collaborative and comprehensive response.  An examination of the underlying factors and conditions that create resilience or increase vulnerability to HIV/AIDS is key to understanding how to best structure efficient and sustainable responses to the challenge. It is with this objective in mind that this report was prepared.


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