MSFHR 2018 Reach Award project: #LifeAndLoveWithHIV: A social media initiative to support the sexual health needs of women living with HIV

WHRI members Drs. Angela Kaida, Lori Brotto, and Ali Carter and Margarite Sanchez are working together to create an online space for women living with HIV to reclaim their sexuality and shift the narrative from risk to pleasure. Read our Q&A with the team to learn more about this amazing project!

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  1. Briefly, what research will you be disseminating with the MSFHR Reach Award?

The overall purpose of our project, #LifeAndLoveWithHIV: A social media initiative to support the sexual health needs of women living with HIV, is to move research evidence, along with lived experience perspectives, about sexuality and relationships in the context of HIV directly into the hands of women living with HIV and those who love and support them. Desire, pleasure, abstinence, and love are just a few of the topics we’ll be disseminating with the MSFHR Reach Award. Much of this information comes from our own research on Women’s Sexuality, as well as women’s personal essays on the subject.

  1. How will you be disseminating it?

We believe storytelling has the potential to improve sexual health—be it knowledge, attitudes, feelings, or behaviors. We also believe in the power of stories for positive social change. To achieve this, we created a feminist magazine and blog, www.lifeandlovewithhiv.ca dedicated to building conversation and community around sexuality and relationships with HIV.

  1. Research users are expected to play a key role in Reach Award-funded projects. How did your patient partner get involved with the project and what will their role look like within your team?

Research users came up with the idea! A group of us (some women living with HIV, some researchers) had been working together for a number of years on the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Study (CHIWOS). In 2018, we co-founded and launched Life and Love with HIV. Our community features six women-identifying writers from all around the world who live with HIV (USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, Kenya, and New Zealand). They are supported by three Editors, Florence Anam, Margarite Sanchez, and Dr. Allie Carter, as well as a team of resident researchers who provide the statistics and information we need to further our cause.

  1. Why is it important to share this research?

For decades, HIV research and support has focused solely on preventing disease and saving lives. Frankly, not many people have cared much about the quality of women’s sexual lives. More than 17 million women are currently living with HIV. With treatment, women can live just as long, and just as well, as those without the disease. They also have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus, if they’re stable on their meds and have an undetectable viral load. In this era of amazing medical progress, we saw an opportunity to change the outdated narrative of AIDS, sickness, despair, and death, and share positive, pleasure-focused stories on life, love, and everything in between. Ultimately, the goal of our platform is to de-stigmatize and de-marginalize sexuality and relationships in the context of HIV and better support women, partners, and couples who are living with disease globally.

  1. When/where can we expect to see your research disseminated?

Visit and share www.lifeandlovewithhiv.ca. There is a lot of content already on our website and much, much more to come!