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Caring for Women Living with HIV: Gaps in the Evidence

Publication year: 
Author (s): 
Loutfy, Mona [et al.]
Publication details: 
s.l., International AIDS Society, 2013
Publication in: 
Journal of the International AIDS Society 2013, 16:18509

Introduction: In the management of HIV, women and men generally undergo the same treatment pathway, with gender differences being given limited consideration. This is in spite of accumulating evidence that there are a number of potential
differences between women and men which may affect response to treatment, pharmacokinetics, toxicities and coping. There are also notable psychological, behavioural, social and structural factors that may have a unique impact on women living with HIV (WLWH). Despite our increasing knowledge of HIV and advances in treatment, there are significant gaps in the data relating specifically to women. One of the factors contributing to this situation is the under-representation of women in all aspects of HIV clinical research. Furthermore, there are clinical issues unique to women, including gynaecologic and breast diseases, menopause-related factors, contraception and other topics related to women’s and sexual health.

Methods: Using scoping review methodology, articles from the literature from 1980 to 2012 were identified using appropriate eSH headings reflecting the clinical status of LWH, particularly in the areas of clinical management, sexual health, emotional wellbeing and treatment access. Titles and abstracts were scanned to determine whether they were relevant to nonreproductive health in WLWH, and papers meeting inclusion criteria were reviewed.

Results: This review summarizes our current knowledge of the clinical status of WLWH, particularly in the areas of clinical management, sexual health, emotional wellbeing and treatment access. It suggests that there are a number of gender differences in disease and treatment outcomes, and distinct women-specific issues, such as menopause and co-morbidities, that pose significant challenges to the care of WLWH.

Conclusions: Based on a review of this evidence, outstanding questions and areas where further studies are required to determine gender differences in the efficacy and safety of treatment and other clinical and psychological issues specifically affecting WLWH have been identified. Well-controlled and adequately powered clinical studies are essential to help provide
answers to these questions and to contribute to activities aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of WLWH.