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Media Release

Thursday 9 March 2023

Thursday 09 March 2023 is Australia’s eighth National Day of Women living with HIV. On this day we recognise and affirm all women living with HIV, including our trans and gender diverse sisters and those who identify as non-binary, under the 2023 aspirational theme ‘Challenging Stigma: Closing the Gender Gap’.

The annual National Day of Women living with HIV is a day to celebrate the lives of all women living with HIV as well as an opportunity to challenge stigma in all its forms and raise awareness around HIV gender-related inequities.

“Globally, 54% of all people living with HIV are women,” said Positive Life NSW CEO Jane Costello. “While here in NSW, women living with HIV make up about 11 percent of the total population of people living with HIV. The Kirby Institute has estimated that there are currently 1,070 women living with HIV in NSW, with approximately 5% undiagnosed and therefore unaware of their status,” said Ms Costello.

“Gender-related inequities in the HIV response contribute to the relative invisibility of women. Women are significantly more likely than men to have been diagnosed more than two years after they acquired HIV, as reported in the HIV Futures 10 Report.1  Women were also more likely than men to report recent financial stress, often have less information about HIV, experience stigma and exclusion differently, and have unequal power dynamics with men,” said Ms Costello.

“Closing the gender gap for all women living with or at risk of HIV can be achieved if we listen to what their needs are,” said Positive Life’s Aboriginal Health Program Officer, Michelle Tobin.  “More importantly, it’s about how we inform women about their rights to culturally appropriate healthcare that should include information about HIV prevention, testing and treatment. The time to yarn about HIV is now,” said Ms Tobin.

The under-representation of women in HIV-related research leads to gaps in scientific knowledge about the ways in which HIV may affect women. This is particularly relevant around treatment as historically this was studied in men, and we still do not fully understand how HIV medications interact with women’s bodies. “There are multiple intersections between HIV and additional socio-economic factors specific to women which affect the health and wellbeing of the diverse community of women living with HIV,” said Ms Costello.

“On this National Day of Women Living with HIV, we need to challenge HIV stigma, and address the assumptions and inequities particular to gender to improve health outcomes for all women living with HIV.  For the HIV epidemic to end, we must close the gender gap,” said Ms Costello.

Positive Life NSW will hold an annual National Day of Women living with HIV high tea for women living with HIV, friends and supporters and hear from a range of presenters speaking to our 2023 theme, Challenging Stigma: Closing the Gender Gap.

[1] Norman, T., Power, J., Rule, J., Chen, J., & Bourne., A. (2022). HIV Futures 10: Quality of life among people living with HIV in Australia (monograph series number 134). Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University. doi: 10.26181/21397641


Jane Costello, CEO – 1800 245 677 or email communications@positivelife.org.au

Positive Life NSW is the voice of all people living with HIV in NSW since 1988. As the largest peer-led and run representative body of all people living with HIV in Australia based in NSW, we make a significant contribution to and positive impact across the spectrum of health and social issues on behalf of all people living with HIV in collaboration with HIV specialist and mainstream services to improve the health and quality of life of all people living with HIV in NSW. We do this through evidence-based health promotion, research, policy advice and peer support.

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