SFU Health Science professors Angela Kaida (2nd from left) and Robert Hogg (middle) with fellow HIV researchers. (Dale Northey)


New study finds previously incarcerated women with HIV less likely to adhere to HIV treatment

July 19, 2016

The British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BCCfE) has released new research that finds previously incarcerated women with HIV are three times more likely to have poor adherence to combination anti-retroviral therapy than HIV positive women who have not been incarcerated.

Simon Fraser University Health Sciences professor and principal investigator of the study at the BCCfE, Angela Kaida, presented the findings at the 21st International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

The research comes from a survey conducted by Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual & Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS), Canada’s largest multi-site community-based cohort study, with 1,425 women living with HIV enrolled in the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

Key findings from the study include that 30 per cent of study participants had been incarcerated with six per cent having been incarcerated in the past year. Recently incarcerated women with HIV were three times as likely to be lower income and live in unstable housing than women who had never been incarcerated.

“This research shows the urgent need for programming that provides women with the necessary health and social supports following incarceration,” says Hogg.

Access and adherence to combination antiretroviral therapy, the standard for HIV treatment, is critical for both individual health and HIV prevention efforts.

Over the last decade, HIV infection among women in Canada has increased. At the end of 2014, an estimated 16,800 Canadian women were living with HIV—almost double the estimate from 1999. The prevalence of HIV infection is much higher for incarcerated women and men in many countries, including Canada.

“Women living with HIV with incarceration history are among the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our community,” says Valerie Nicholson, an Indigenous woman living with HIV and co-Chair of the CHIWOS Community Advisory Board and Chair of the BC Positive Living Society.

“We must provide the support necessary to improve their health and minimize the damaging effects of the cycle of poverty, ill health, and incarceration,” she says.