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Populations Most Impacted

Social determinants of health significantly impact the lives of individuals and communities, putting some people at higher systemic risk for HIV than others. WHAI is working to address these inequalities in our work.


ACB women are overrepresented among women living with HIV.

ACB women make up less than 5% of the general population, but are disproportionately impacted by HIV in Ontario (OHTN, 2019opens in a new window). Systemic HIV risk for ACB women is associated with social determinants of health, as well as racism, sexism, and transphobia. It is also associated with migration from areas where HIV is more prevalent.

More than 50%

of new HIV diagnoses among women in Ontario were African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) women in 2017.

OHESI: Women & HIV in Ontarioopens in a new window


“The reality is the way we’ve been framed in the media around this issue, really contributes to us being more at risk of HIV. I think it pushes people from have a conversation about HIV in our community, I think it pushes people from our community from the possibility of getting tested.”

— Person living with HIV, “Our Voices: HIV, Race, and the Criminal Law. An ACCHO Special Report.” (2013)


Many systemic factors lead to increased HIV risk among Indigenous women.

Indigenous women face many intersecting forms of oppression as a result of colonialism, which contribute to increased risk for HIV acquisition. Systemic factors that maintain these realities include historical, multigenerational and intergenerational trauma, social and economic marginalization, lack of will, and ignoring the expertise of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

(Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, 2019)opens in a new window


of new HIV infections among Indigenous people in Ontario were women in 2016-17.

OHESI: Women & HIV in Ontarioopens in a new window


"The ability of Indigenous women to determine and develop our own priorities in the areas of health, education, climate change, gender equality, and safety is vital to the success of reconciliation. In order to create positive and sustainable change, we need to draft ideas for programs tailored to our distinct needs and strategies for implementation…”

— Francyne D. Joe, Interim President, Native Women’s Association of Canada


Trans women experience higher rates of HIV.

There are no up-to-date statistics for Ontario, but a study in 2012 showed Trans women were 10 times more likely to report having been diagnosed with HIV than Ontarians overall.

Source: Bauer GR, Scheim AI, Deutsch MB, Massarella C. Reported Emergency Department Avoidance, Use, and Experiences of Transgender Persons in Ontario, Canada: Results from a Respondent-Driven Sampling Survey. Annals of Emergency Medicine 2014; 63(6): 713-720.




"Woman" and "Women"

People have different comfort levels in language and have different language preferences. WHAI works to be inclusive of all women, including Trans and Cis women, women with Trans experience, as well as folks on the Transfeminine spectrum. The terms "woman" and "women" are often used throughout our website and resources as an umbrella term, meant to encompass a wide range of identities. If you have feedback about how we can improve the language and content on our website, please contact us. We're happy to hear your feedback.


Trans women are 10 times more likely to report having been diagnosed with HIV.

OHESI: Women & HIV in Ontarioopens in a new window


"In order to enhance care for Trans women living with HIV, it is essential that health care and social service workers receive training and resources to make their services more accessible."

Trans PULSE Project (2017)opens in a new window


Every year, women who use drugs face systemic risk for contracting HIV.

While drug use can increase the risk for HIV and hepatitis C transmission, criminalization of drug use and stigma present barriers to engagement and maintenance with HIV care for people who use drugs.

2 out of 10

women diagnosed with HIV in Ontario in 2017 reported injecting drugs.

OHESI: Women & HIV in Ontarioopens in a new window


“I avoid using services that require my name or health card or whatever. I don’t feel safe in public spaces and/or anywhere I am required to identify myself because you never know where the info is going. I only use services that have a good reputation and can be trusted.”

— Woman who uses drugs, Ontario


Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is any form of violence based on gender, gender expression, or gender identity and is rooted in entrenched gender inequality.

GBV creates increased barriers for women to engage with HIV prevention, testing, and treatment. Women who experience violence may face barriers to negotiating safe sex or harm reduction practices, as well as accessing and maintaining HIV care. In some cases, the presence of HIV may also increase the risk of violence for women.

The risk for GBV is even greater for women who face other social inequities, such as Indigenous, racialized, 2SLBTQQIA women, and women who use drugs.

Almost 50%

of women living with HIV reported having experienced intimate partner violence in a 2017 Cohort Study.

opens in a new window


“I never had consensual sex with my husband. He didn’t tell me that he had HIV but he started to look ill. Every time I told him ‘no.’”

— Woman living with HIV, Ontario


Women who are incarcerated (or have been incarcerated) face a range of systemic barriers that can increase the risk of acquiring HIV and create barriers to positive health outcomes.

People experiencing incarceration in Ontario’s correctional system were reported to have higher rates of HIV than the general population in 2014. Among people living with HIV, HIV rates were higher among incarcerated women than men. The most significant risk factor for people who were currently or formerly incarcerated was injection drug use.

1% to 9%

Estimates of HIV prevalence in Canadian federal prisons range from 1% to 9% for women. HIV prevalence among federally incarcerated people in Canada is estimated to be 10x more than the general population.

On Point: Recommendations for Prison-Based Needle and Syringe Programs in Canadaopens in a new window


“Women who are incarcerated in Canadian prisons, for example, are more likely than their male counterparts to experience health complications from past physical and sexual abuse, poverty, pregnancy, and malnourishment, among other conditions. For Indigenous and Black women, these experiences are compounded by the legacies of colonization, slavery, and racism.”

On Point: Recommendations for Prison-Based Needle and Syringe Programs in Canadaopens in a new window


Fact Sheet

Women & HIV in Ontario

An overview of HIV and health outcomes driven by the social determinants of health for women in Ontario.


HIV Stigma in African, Caribbean, and Black Communities

CHABAC's resource on HIV stigma within African, Caribbean, and Black communities.


On Point

Recommendations for Prison-Based Needle and Syringe Programs in Canada.


Inside and Out: Backgrounder

Report on changing the course of the HIV prevention, engagement, and care cascade for current and former prisoners.


Women in Prison, HIV and Hepatitis C

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network's information sheet on the human rights of women living with HIV in prison.


TransPULSE Resource Guide

TransPULSE's resource list for Trans people in Canada.