New HIV infections in women are mostly newcomers
Women account for one in four new HIV infections in Ontario, 60 per cent of whom are newcomers to the country, says a new study.
The infected newcomers are both refugees and immigrants, but it is not known whether they were infected before or after they came to Canada, said lead author Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Immigrants are screened before being accepted to Canada to ensure they are not a burden on the health system. Most of the infected women have come from parts of the world where HIV is endemic, including sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.
The fact that a quarter of the newly infected are women is significant because AIDS is still considered by many to be a disease of homosexual men, Bayoumi explained.
The 2006-2008 findings are part of a study by St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences, known as the Project for an Ontario Women’s Health Evidence-Based Report, a multi-year project aimed at reducing women’s health inequities.
They suggest targeted prevention and intervention efforts to eliminate gaps in inequities in care for HIV patients. Researchers say 93 per cent of the new infections among women are acquired through sexual transmission and seven per cent through injection drug use.
More than 4,700 women are living with HIV in Ontario, representing 18 per cent of the total estimated cases in the province.