Everyday Racism Hinders Indigenous Women with HIV From Accessing Care

21 June 2018

Indigenous women living with HIV experience everyday incidents of racism that impede their access to care disproportionately to other groups, according to a study involving more than 1,400 women across Canada.This contributes to a loss of Indigenous women along the HIV “cascade of care” – a term used to describe clinical stages of treatment such as diagnosis, retention in care and viral suppression – at a markedly higher rate than other than other ethnicities (-25 per cent compared with -15 per cent to -16 per cent).

“One of the things that came out, quite fascinatingly, in our study was that Indigenous women did have higher attrition rates,” said Angela Kaida, an associate researcher at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), an associate professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and senior author of the study. “But when we factored in experiences of racism – not [ethnicity itself] but how much racism you’re encountering in your everyday life – that’s really what was causing the effect.”

Examples include prejudiced comments from health-care providers and disrespect for cultural traditions. The study’s finding highlights the need for more Indigenous peers in the planning and delivery of such HIV care as well as culturally relevant services in general for Canada’s Indigenous people, Dr. Kaida said.

The study was published this week in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes and includes research from the BC-CfE, SFU and the BC Women’s Hospital. Of 1,424 women living with HIV involved in the study, 98 per cent had started receiving HIV care, 97 per cent of those received care in the past year and 89 per cent initiated anti-retroviral therapy. Among those who initiated the treatment, 94 per cent remained on it. Among participants who are currently on anti-retrovirals, 83 per cent were adherent and 87 per cent maintained viral suppression, which stunts the development of AIDS and reduces the risk of HIV transmission by more than 95 per cent.

The study found that African, Caribbean or black women had the highest prevalence of viral suppression (84 per cent) while Indigenous women had the lowest (57 per cent).

Read the full article online here.