WRI 2023 — Optimizing the Behavioral Health of Women Living with and Vulnerable to HIV

Submitted on Nov 1, 2023


WRI logo.

On April 20-23, 2023, The Women's Research Initiative on HIV/AIDS (WRI), a program of The Well Project, convened a meeting focused on Optimizing the Behavioral Health and Overall Well-being of Women Living with and Vulnerable to HIV. The meeting sought to promote comprehensive, holistic approaches that integrate behavioral health to address the needs and improve the overall well-being of women living with and vulnerable to HIV. (Access the Issue Brief here or below.)



Highlights from the meeting include:

The Well Project and the WRI use the term "women" to describe anyone who identifies as such across the gender spectrum.

  • The relationship between HIV and behavioral health, specifically mental health and substance use, is interactive and multi-layered. Holistic care for women living with and vulnerable to HIV must meaningfully respond to and center their behavioral health needs.
  • Substance use, which is affected by individual, social, and structural factors, can have a profound impact on HIV acquisition and care among women.
  • Among women living with HIV, Black women, other women of color, and women of trans experience (trans women) are disproportionately affected by behavioral health issues and require specialized attention and interventions.
  • Lived experience must be valued across the HIV field as an aspect of HIV "expertise," on par with competencies such as clinical acumen and policy proficiency, in order to meaningfully engage women living with HIV in research, policy, and treatment.


Collage of images from WRI 2023.

The behavioral health needs of women living with and vulnerable to HIV are significant and must be integrated into and addressed through HIV prevention and care. Challenges related to mental health and substance use can affect women's quality of life, vulnerability to HIV acquisition, treatment success, and mortality. Marginalized populations, including Black women, Latinas, and trans women, experience additional behavioral health challenges, and their unique needs must be considered in the development of behavioral health research, services, and policy. These efforts must also address the challenges posed by the systemic racism embedded in the US healthcare system. While some progress has been made, ensuring broader success requires thoughtful, coordinated efforts that center the needs of women living with and vulnerable to HIV.

To learn more, please see the WRI 2023 Issue Brief: Optimizing the Behavioral Health of Women Living with and Vulnerable to HIV.


WRI 2023 group photo.

WRI 2023 Meeting Participants

Adaora Adimora, MD, MPH*
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Allison Agwu, MD, ScM
Johns Hopkins University
Susannah Allison, PhD
Division of AIDS Research, NIMH, NIH
Nancie Archin, PhD*
University of North Carolina
Judith Auerbach, PhD*
University of California San Francisco
Dawn Averitt*
The Well Project and WRI
Gina Brown, MD
Gilead Sciences
Inger Burnett-Zeigler, PhD
Northwestern University
Kimberly Canady
The Well Project
Cecilia Chung
Transgender Law Center
Jenna Conley*
The Well Project
Elizabeth Connick, MD
University of Arizona
Ciarra Covin, MS
The Well Project
Antigone Dempsey, MEd
Dazon Dixon Diallo, DHL, MPH
SisterLove, Inc.
Karine Dubé, DrPH
UCSD School of Medicine
Olivia Ford
The Well Project
B. Kaye Hayes, MPA
Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy; Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health Director US DHHS
Jennifer Kates, PhD*
Kaiser Family Foundation
Naina Khanna, SME
Positive Women's Network-USA
Aryah Lester
Transgender Strategy Center
Krista Martel*
The Well Project
Amaya Perez-Brumer, PhD
University of Toronto
Bridgette Picou, LVN
The Well Project
Tonia Poteat, PhD, MPH, PA-C
University of North Carolina
Kristin Roha, MS, MPH
Linda Scruggs, MHS*
Susan Sherman, PhD, MPH
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Jane Simoni, PhD
University of Washington
Laramie Smith, PhD
University of California San Diego
Kathleen Squires, MD
Merck Research Labs
Vani Vannappagari, MBBS, MPH, PhD
ViiV Healthcare
Andrea Weddle, MSW*
HIV Medicine Association
Carmen Zorilla, MD
UPR School of Medicine


*2023 WRI Advisory Board Member

The WRI 2023 convening received sponsorship support or grants from Gilead, Merck, and ViiV Healthcare.



Members of The Well Project community at USCHA 2022.

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