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Powerful Women Confront HIV

Women with HIV face overwhelming challenges. First, they must push through the fear and stigma of being an HIV-positive woman. Then they must endure the isolation they feel when they share their status with family, friends and even caregivers. And for many women, their HIV diagnosis is but one aspect of an incredibly challenging life – from childhood trauma to poverty and low self-esteem – factors that have the potential to overshadow their lives.

It takes a powerful woman to find the strength to confront these challenges, share her story, and find the care she needs. The Women’s HIV Program at UCSF (WHP) is a new model of primary care to help women regain their health, their strength, and their power.

Innovative Care For Lives, Not Just HIV

The Women’s HIV Program at UCSF has provided sensitive, effective healthcare to women and girls living with HIV for 20 years. In that time, our experiences and research have shown that the key to making our patients strong again is to treat not only their medical needs, but to also effectively address trauma – which is incredibly common among our patients and has a dramatic impact on their health and lives. To us, HIV is symptom of a far larger problem – violence against women and girls. Our model of trauma-informed care helps women heal from and prevent trauma as a core part of their primary medical care.

The WHP core team is committed, compassionate, and competent. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers collaborate to create the best care plan for each patient. Our extended team includes the world-class medical resources of UCSF and a cadre of community partners. With incredibly efficient use of a very small budget, and a model of care based on evidence of what is actually effective, a caring community converges; lives are saved; dignity is restored; families are preserved; and valuable lessons about healthcare innovation are learned.

Real Impact: Empowering women to overcome trauma

Together, we can change the unacceptable fact that over half of HIV cases internationally, and almost 1 in 3 in the United States, are in women and girls. Today, HIV is a leading cause of death among African American and Latinas aged 15-54, despite HIV being a preventable and treatable condition. To change this reality, we must confront the deeper problem of violence against women and girls that leads women to becoming infected with HIV in the first place and to poor health once they become HIV-positive. This is our promise for the future: to develop and disseminate a new model of trauma-informed primary care that can be used with both HIV-positive women and the far larger population of women and girls without HIV who experience violence and neglect.