Review | Open Access
The Changing Demographics of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Southern Alberta from 1982 to 2006
INTRODUCTION: Women account for a growing proportion of HIV infections in Canada. This has implications with respect to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.OBJECTIVE: To describe the female population presenting for HIV care in southern Alberta and to examine the impact of opt-out pregnancy screening.METHODS: A retrospective review of demographic and clinical characteristics of all patients presenting to the Southern Alberta HIV Clinic (SAC) care program from 1982 to 2006, was performed.RESULTS: The proportion of newly diagnosed patients who were female increased from 7.5% before 1998 to 21.5% after 1998. Women were more likely to be from vulnerable populations, such as intravenous drug users (31.3% versus 13.7%, P<0.001), aboriginals/Métis (21.5% versus 8.7%, P<0.001), blacks (28.9% versus 4.9%, P<0.001) and immigrants (36.6% versus 14.7%, P<0.001). Heterosexual intercourse was the main risk factor for HIV acquisition (43.7%). Women were less likely than men to have requested HIV testing (20.9% versus 37.8%, P<0.001). Opt-out pregnancy screening accounted for 12.7% of HIV-positive tests in women, following its introduction in 1998. Of the women diagnosed by pregnancy screening, 62.1% were from HIV-endemic countries. There was an association between reason for testing and CD4 count at presentation; women who requested their HIV test had higher median CD4 counts than those diagnosed because of illness (478 cells/mL, interquartile range [IQR]=370 cells/mL versus 174 cells/mL, IQR=328 cells/mL, P<0.001) or pregnancy screening (478 cells/mL, IQR=370 cells/mL versus 271 cells/mL, IQR=256 cells/mL, P=0.001).CONCLUSIONS: Women were less likely than men to have requested HIV testing and were more likely to be diagnosed by population-based screening methods. Women, especially vulnerable groups, account for a growing number and proportion of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Alberta. The implications of expanded screening in this population merit further consideration.
Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.