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HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health in the District of Columbia, Recommendations From HIV-Positive Women

July 5, 2012

"I am somebody's mother, I am somebody's aunt, I am somebody's cousin and I am a human being and I want to be treated as such"

-- HIV-positive woman

Since the early years of the HIV epidemic, women living with and affected by HIV have fought to see their sexual and reproductive health concerns adequately addressed by researchers, funders and policymakers. Over the years, this struggle has seen both progress and challenges. At The Women's Collective (TWC), our experience providing case management and prevention services to women serves as a daily reminder that this issue is being overlooked to the detriment of women in our community. In late 2011, TWC conducted a series of focus groups to first determine the gaps in sexual and reproductive health services, as identified by Washington D.C.'s HIV-positive women themselves, and second develop a set of recommendations to address those gaps.

During the focus group dialogues, participants identified several challenges that affected their understanding of, access to, and utilization of sexual and reproductive health services. These were: 1) the need for mental health support; 2) the failure of healthcare providers to connect HIV-positive women to counseling services; 3) a lack of coordination among infectious disease providers and obstetricians/gynecologists; 4) a disconnect between community based organizations and healthcare providers; 5) financial burdens; 6) stigma within the broader healthcare field; and 7) the need for greater self-empowerment among HIV-positive women.

Participants readily suggested recommendations for policymakers, healthcare providers, community based organizations, and other HIV-positive women to address the challenges they identified.

Recommendations to address women's needs include:

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The Women's Collective hopes that these recommendations will reach the ears of policymakers, healthcare professionals, CBOs, and other women living with HIV. Through a concerted effort, all stakeholders can end the HIV epidemic affecting women, girls, and their families. The complete research results can be found here. TWC thanks The Center for Women Policy Studies for the opportunity to publish these findings.




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