Women living with HIV in Australia
Today, about 10% of people living with HIV in Australia are women; yet they continue to be conspicuously absent in most of the HIV prevention messages.
The reported experiences of women living with HIV can be very different from men.
Many women navigate their treatments and their daily lives differently from their male counterparts.
'Women continue to be largely invisible in our HIV responses,” cites Jane Costello, past president of Positive Life NSW speaking in Adelaide in 2016.
‘Most women living with HIV in Australia have been infected as a result of heterosexual sex [and] live with inequality, in silence and secrecy. That inequality, silence and secrecy feeds a climate of stigma and discrimination, as well as the assumptions that HIV is simply not an issue for women.’
Despite an overall drop in HIV diagnoses in Australia, HIV is increasing among heterosexual people.
1. Managing the complexities of HIV for women
The majority of women with HIV in Australia are straight
Getting on with life after a major medical diagnosis has its own challenges, and the majority of women with HIV in Australia are straight and heterosexual.
- Research from the 2018 Futures Surveys indicates that over 90% of women living in Australia with HIV are heterosexual.
More recently in the 2018 Kirby Institute Annual Report, ‘despite an overall drop in HIV diagnoses to a seven-year low, there was a 10% rise in transmissions among heterosexual people over the five years to 2017 with Heterosexual sex accounted for one in four new HIV diagnosis in 2017.’
2. Location isolation
In Australia, many support services are focused on the gay community and men who have sex with men.
As a result, many women LWHIV report feeling more isolated from support services than other positive people.
This is further complicated with positive women having a greater likelihood of them living in outer suburban regional locations with limited access to support services also playing a part. Most are living with pets, partners often caring for children and managing family responsibilities.
3. Diagnosed late
Many women also have to contend with late HIV diagnoses, where they were unaware they had acquired HIV (for an average of 4 years) before they were diagnosed.
By then, the virus could have done more damage to their immune system and they may have an increased risk of unknowingly passing it on to someone else.
- Among heterosexual people with a late HIV diagnosis, 48% of them were Australian-born.
- Over the 5 year period 2013 - 2017 the proportion of HIV notifications with late diagnosis was highest in people born in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America.
HIV doesn’t discriminate
We all need to learn how to better manage the risks in our lives - both personal and professional.
- Straight people need to talk more about HIV and understand the benefits of treatments like PrEP that can help prevent HIV transmission too.
- Getting tested is the first step to living a full life, using life insurance products to protect what you cannot afford to lose is the next step (and we’d love to help you with that)
HIV doesn’t discriminate: and neither do we
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We are the experts who pioneered introducing full risk insurance services for HIV positive Australians. Get in touch (or take our Pre-assessment here) to see how we can help you protect, plan and provide for those times in life when it doesn't go quite to plan.