Women's College Research Institute

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Women and HIV Research Program


Women represent an important growing group at risk for HIV, comprising over half of all adults with HIV globally and 23 per cent of cases in Canada. However, there is limited knowledge about the health, needs and care of women living with HIV across Canada as women have been underrepresented in HIV research. The underrepresentation of sex and gender analyses and the historic exclusion of women in HIV research, along with the clinical inattention to the gendered social circumstances and needs of women, call for continued focus on critical health research in this area. Women living with HIV face different issues than men including unique complications of infection, sex-specific side effects from HIV treatments, emotional and mental health support needs, as well as unique concerns around sexual and reproductive health. Conducting research that is focused on women living with HIV is inherently linked to both the biological and social needs of women as well as their gendered experiences. For these reasons, research specifically focusing on women living with HIV is vital.


Recognizing the research gap that exists for women living with HIV, Dr. Mona Loutfy founded The Women and HIV Research Program (WHRP) at Women's College Research Institute (WCRI) in 2006. WHRP is guided by feminist, anti-oppressive, and community-based research (CBR) principles and involves the collaborative efforts of a national, interdisciplinary team. WHRP is committed to conducting research that is deemed most essential to women living with HIV, and thus the research program is frequently pursuing innovative ways that provide benefit to women living with HIV. The interdisciplinary program works in partnership with Maple Leaf Medical Clinic (MLMC), where Dr. Loutfy serves as the research director and sees patients. Dr. Loutfy was awarded Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) operating grants from 2011 onwards to fund the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual & Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS). This large CBR longitudinal study is possible through the collaborative work with research teams in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and most recently Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This project is carrying out interview-administered surveys every 18 months with over 1,200 women living with HIV across Canada. CHIWOS aims to develop and understand women-centred HIV care and how this care can impact the health outcomes of women living with HIV. The team has made specific efforts to include harder-to-reach, vulnerable populations and women from ethno-cultural and ethno-racial groups to ensure that the full range of women’s health issues and experiences are captured. The study team is committed to following the Greater Involvement of People living with HIV/AIDS and the Meaningful Involvement of People living with HIV/AIDS principles. They follow these principles by engaging women living with HIV at all stages of the research process, including in the research design, implementation, and analysis.

The Future

In 2017, Dr. Loutfy was awarded a CIHR Foundation Grant to continue the funding of WHRP for the next seven years. This Foundation Grant will move the program to exciting new areas with the overarching vision to optimize the health of women with and at risk of HIV in Canada., The program will also look at how intersecting social positions for women living with HIV, may lead to different health and social outcomes. With this vision in mind, WHRP aims to accomplish three primary goals: 1) finalize a new model of care (the Women-centred HIV Care Model) aimed at optimizing the health and wellbeing of women with HIV in Canada, particularly those most affected by HIV including Indigenous women and trans women; 2) disseminate and optimize implementation of the 2018 Canadian HIV Pregnancy Planning Guidelines; and 3) mentor and train the next generation of researchers and clinicians that are focused on health equity for women with and at risk of HIV. 

The 2018 Canadian HIV Pregnancy Planning Guidelines have been published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada in January 2018 and the full guidelines are available in the WHRP repository above.

WHRP has also recently launched the Trans Women and HIV Research Initiative (TWIRI) and is excited about the many current projects, knowledge translation and exchange events.

Team Members

Mona Loutfy, Founder and Director of WHRP

Logan Kennedy, WHRP Senior Research Associate

Angela Underhill, WHRP Coordinator

Mina Kazemi, CHIWOS Coordinator

Yasmeen Persad, Trans Women and HIV Research Initiative (TWIRI) Coordinator







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Phone: (416) 351-3732, ext. 2324
Fax: (416) 351-3746

Read the 2018 Updated Canadian HIV Pregnancy Planning Guidelines

Read these seminal open-access CHIWOS papers: "Cohort Profile" and "Operationalization of CBR"

Read the 2016 report from from the Aboriginal Women's Research Initiative, “Strong Women's Bear Journey”

  • Fully affiliated with:
  • University of Toronto

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