Women's College Research Institute

Jump to body content

Q&A with Dr. Mona Loutfy: the forefront of HIV research

December 2016

Dr. Mona Loutfy founded the Women and HIV Research Program at Women’s College Hospital a decade ago to reduce the stigma and health disparities that Canadian women living with HIV experience.

Her research has found that women with HIV have worse clinical outcomes than men do. She has also found that about 80 per cent of Canadian women with HIV have experienced violence, and 17 per cent acquired HIV from a sexual assault.

She is a WCRI scientist who leads the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS), a national study funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Impact interviewed Dr. Loutfy leading up to World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 to ask about her latest research.

What questions are important to tackling HIV in Canada?

It is important to understand the tremendous progress that has happened with HIV in the last 30 years. We have five one-pill-a-day treatments. Life expectancy is now 60 years from diagnosis. People can get pregnant and have zero transmission to babies and live normal lives.

A lot of the challenges in Canada have to do with stigma, discrimination, disclosure and issues of what we call social determinants of health. Certain populations of certain racial backgrounds are at increased risk of HIV, such as Indigenous communities and people from the African-Caribbean-Black population, as well as people living in poverty, people with histories of violence in their past, people with mental health histories.

What are the gaps in care for women with HIV?

We have initial results on 1,425 participants in CHIWOS, which have shown that women are getting very good HIV care but probably only 60 per cent are getting effective women’s healthcare. We have a really good specialist model of care in Canada. They go in for their visit, they get their HIV medication and HIV bloodwork, but they’re not getting their Pap testing, they’re not getting their mammograms, they’re not having the discussion about contraception and pregnancy planning. That is what our project is about, developing a model of care which we’re calling “women-centred HIV care” that takes that into account.

Could you tell us about your study on Pap testing in women with HIV?

Women living HIV are at double the risk of cervical cancer than their HIV-negative counterparts. We decided to do a nursing-led cervical cancer counselling and screening program. The nurses are meant to go through all the charts in the clinic to see who is due for Pap. We have an online educati RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Women’s College Hospital

Do you have anything to add?

I always try to take the opportunity to tell people to not stigmatize or discriminate against people living with HIV — they could be anybody — and to really approach people and life with compassion.

Dr. Mona Loutfy
Dr. Mona Loutfy speaks at the Interdisciplinary HIV Pregnancy Research Group Conference.

Back to December issue of Impact

Jump to top page
  • Fully affiliated with:
  • University of Toronto

  • A member of:
  • Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)