The Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS) is the country’s largest, longitudinal, community-based research study focused on women living with HIV. Launched today, the study seeks to enroll more than 1,250 women living with HIV in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
A team of investigators from across the country are collaborating on the study. Angela Kaida, an SFU health sciences professor and Canada Research Chair, leads the study in B.C. Robert Hogg, director of the Epidemiology and Population Health program at the BC Centre for Excellence HIV/AIDS and an SFU health sciences professor, leads the connection of CHIWOS to the Canadian Observational Cohort (CANOC) study.
“We know that women face greater biological susceptibility to HIV. However, we also face increased vulnerability due to prevailing social inequities including poverty, violence and racial marginalization,” says Kaida. “We have engaged in this research with strong community input and hope that women living with HIV will be encouraged to participate, so that their voices and priorities will be heard.”
Women represent an increasing proportion of positive HIV test reports, accounting for 23 per cent of the Canadian total in 2011, nearly double the proportion observed in 1999 (12 per cent). Today, an estimated 16,000 women are living with HIV/AIDS out of an estimated total of 71,300 Canadians with HIV/AIDS.
Kaida expects the study will shed light on gendered barriers to care for women living with HIV. “We need to understand more about the broader factors that facilitate or constrain women’s access to comprehensive care,” she says. “With this knowledge, the CHIWOS study will help identify gender-appropriate approaches to maximize the beneficial effects of available interventions to optimize the health of women living with HIV.”
“This study is giving a voice to women who previously had no voice” says CHIWOS peer research associate Valerie Nicholson, an HIV-positive Aboriginal woman. “My hope is that this research will ensure the women in my community, and our children and grandchildren, don’t have to face the same barriers I have experienced in my lifetime.”
CHIWOS study participants will complete a questionnaire with a trained peer interviewer and take part in a follow-up interview 18-months later. Study results will be released in early 2015.
Simon Fraser University is Canada’s top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.