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An HIV/AIDS lab at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

British Columbian researchers have found that women with HIV-AIDS are more likely than men to receive sub-standard care and treatment, putting them at higher risk of death or transmission to others.

The B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS conducted two studies to try to find out why the number of new cases of HIV-AIDS among women has been trending upward.

The first study measured the quality of HIV care that both men and women received within the first year of their diagnosis.

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Tracking nearly 3,900 people who were starting antiretroviral drug regimens, the 10-year study that began in 2000 found women were 25 per cent more likely than men to experience sub-optimal care.

More than half of the women in the study group hadn't been able to suppress the virus in their first six months of treatment, leaving them more susceptible to ill health and increased risk of transmission.

A possible reason for this, the study suggested, was the fact that nearly half of the women undergoing their first year of treatment hadn't been tested to see if they'd be resistant to the antiretroviral drugs. This was true in only 36 per cent of cases among the men.

The study also found that 17 per cent of the women were given antiretroviral drug regimens that were not recommended for their particular cases, as opposed to only nine per cent of the men.

The study didn't examine the reasons for the "serious inequities" in care that it found between genders.

However, Dr. Robert Hogg, one of the study's authors, said in a release that the findings "highlight the need for women-centred care approaches to ensure that women are receiving comprehensive and high-quality HIV care."

Dr. Hogg is the director of the centre's epidemiology and population health program.

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The second study examined the use of health services by 231 HIV-positive women.

It found those women in the group who earned less than $15,000 per year, or used illicit drugs, were much less likely to access the health services they needed.

Geographical setting and a general lack of trust in health providers were also cited as factors that were preventing these marginalized women from getting the proper care.

Dr. Hogg said the socioeconomic and geographic barriers undermining access to treatment and care must be addressed in order to reverse the upward trend in HIV-AIDS among women.

The results of the two studies were discussed at a national HIV-AIDS conference that ended Sunday.

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