Founded in 1993, the Women’s HIV Program (WHP) at UCSF was the first program in the nation specifically designed for HIV-positive women and girls.
Early in the epidemic, we realized that women presenting for care were very different from most of the men with HIV (e.g., most are women of color who are not “out” about their diagnosis). For them to become healthy, WHP innovated a model of care that provides comprehensive female-focused health and social services to women, girls, and their families all under one roof. For two decades, WHP has demonstrated the proven results of its care model through the excellent health of its patients as well as through pioneering research, publications, and leadership.
At WHP, women with HIV are seen by a specialist in HIV and women’s health. WHP provides gynecology and obstetrics services, social work, case management, therapy, psychiatry, child care, breakfast and a community of other HIV-positive women. WHP also includes a medication adherence program where our most vulnerable patients pick up their weekly medications. All of these services are offered in a safe and loving environment, providing HIV-positive women a place that they can feel comfortable realizing their inherent health and power.
Recently, WHP undertook significant research projects to understand the root causes of the health and social challenges faced by HIV-positive women. Our research demonstrated that HIV positive women have incredibly high rates of trauma–defined as childhood and adult physical or sexual abuse. We also found that unaddressed trauma leads to poor health outcomes. With evidence-based research and partnerships with other organizations, WHP is committed to developing a new model of care that allows women to heal from past abuse and prevent further trauma – called trauma-informed primary care. It is our hope that this model can be developed with HIV-positive women and then disseminated widely to all women and girls affected by violence and neglect.