What is WHAI?
WHAI is an answer to community need for a flexible response to HIV/AIDS among women in Ontario that takes into account the structural and societal factors that make women vulnerable to HIV. This initiative is funded by the AIDS Bureau of the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care.
The overall goals of WHAI are to:
- Reduce HIV transmission among women (including trans and cis women).
- Enhance local community capacity to address HIV/AIDS.
- Build safe environments to support women and their HIV/AIDS-related needs.
Ultimately, WHAI’s objective is to strengthen the capacity of communities to support women living with and/or affected by HIV/AIDS. We achieve this through:
- Raising awareness and informing local community organizations and groups that serve women about HIV/AIDS and the need for women’s HIV-related services.
- Working with local community organizations and groups to promote the integration of HIV/AIDS into their current programs, services, and procedures.
- Working with staff at community organizations to build their knowledge and capacity to respond to women’s HIV-related needs.
Values & Approach
In Ontario, women’s vulnerability to HIV transmission is linked to the social determinants of health (social and economic factors that impact health) and individual lived experience. WHAI acknowledges and works from the strength, experience and knowledge of communities of women. Women’s vulnerability to HIV is closely linked to social inequity and oppression. These include gender discrimination, the disproportionate levels of violence that is faced by women and to the lack of access to appropriate services and information.
Additionally and significantly, as a result of the lasting impact of factors such as racism, colonialism and transphobia, women belonging to racialized communities, indigenous women and trans women may face even higher levels of systemic and personal discrimination. These factors further increase vulnerability to HIV.
An important access point for women’s HIV prevention messages, information, and interventions is the local community agencies that serve women. WHAI is modeled on a community development framework and works with local community agencies where local women already seek services. WHAI develops networks of partners and agencies that collaborate to meet the diverse needs of women.
WHAI therefore brings HIV awareness and responses into the ‘mainstream’ of women-serving organizations in the region. This allows for flexible, specific and adaptive responses depending on the particular needs of the region and among communities of women living with or affected by HIV.