The Sixth National HIV Strategy

6.3.5 Women

Page last updated: July 2010

In general, there are lower rates of HIV infection among Australian women than men. This has resulted in lower levels of awareness among many women and healthcare professionals about potential risks for HIV transmission. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV later in the course of infection. As a consequence, women who have partners from high prevalence countries may be at an increased risk of HIV transmission, and they are not always in a position to negotiate safer sex, or access education about testing and treatments.

HIV-positive women and children have specific care and support needs. Psychosocial issues and medical complications are important factors to quality of life for children. Access to appropriate services for women is a priority under this strategy. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and women from priority CALD communities (such as from sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia) have specific needs. Challenges that will also be addressed under this strategy include:

  • decreasing the isolation experienced by HIV-positive women
  • promoting opportunities for peer support
  • increasing the visibility of HIV-positive women
  • encouraging women who have HIV to be involved in developing and delivering HIV services, educational interventions and policy.
The availability of antiretroviral therapy has meant that many HIV-positive women can and do choose to have children. However, the treatment needs of HIV-positive women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy are complex, and all of them should be supported in making decisions on appropriate counselling, treatment and support in the ante, intra and post partum periods. It is essential that this support be provided in a timely manner, particularly when women are diagnosed during pregnancy.