Ariel O’Neill, Women and HIV/AIDS Community Animator with PARN (Community AIDS Resource Network ), works with community agencies to enhance their capacity to address HIV/AIDS and to build safe environments that support women and their HIV/AIDS-related needs.
While she says there are fewer than a dozen female clients of PARN “that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, and there is a much bigger population who is at risk”. Up to 25% of the population living with HIV don’t know they have it.
Gender issues play a big role in the HIV story, she says:
Women in survivor sex work need support and resources to negotiate safer sex; women who use drugs may not be in control of their own drug supplies; women are at risk because they are more likely not to have control over their own sexuality and ability to negotiate condom use; there is a correlation of women exposed to violence and risk of HIV; abusive partners may accuse HIV-positive women of infecting them and then the women face criminal charges of non-disclosure; campus rape culture means there is an eight-fold increase of sexual assault during frosh week at colleges and universities when women are not giving consent due to alcohol use; there is stigma from landlords and in child care reported by HIV positive women.
FACTS (From CATIE)
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) weakens your immune system, your body’s built-in defence against disease and illness. You can have HIV without knowing it. You may not look or feel sick for years, but you can still pass the virus on to other people.
Without HIV treatment, your immune system can become too weak to fight off serious illnesses. HIV can also damage other parts of your body. Without treatment, you can eventually become sick with life-threatening infections. This is the most serious stage of HIV infection, called AIDS (acquiredimmunodeficiency syndrome).
There is no vaccine to prevent HIV but there are things you can do to avoid passing or getting HIV. Antiretroviral therapy (drugs) must be taken every day, and will reduce the “viral load” until it is undetectable and almost fully suppressed, with a very low risk of transmission. from One
Only five body fluids can contain enough HIV to infect someone: blood; semen; rectal fluid; vaginal fluid; breast milk. The two main ways that HIV can get passed between you and someone else are through sex and sharing injunction drug needles.
One quarter of people with HIV in Canada are females. An estimated 5,100 to 8,000 women in Ontario are HIV positive. Meanwhile, the number of women on drug therapy continues to increase. Only 1% of babies born to HIV-positive mothers in Canada have HIV.
Women with lower incomes or struggling with mental health or substance abuse are less likely to get care and treatment needed.
PARN – Your Community AIDS Resource Network is a community based agency providing support and health promotion for people living with HIV and people affected by HIV. PARN provides education for people at risk for HIV and awareness of AIDS issues to the broader community.
Address: 159 King St #302, Peterborough Phone: (705) 749-9110 www.parn.ca