case study

Women Living with HIV Study

We conducted qualitative research regarding service gaps, barriers, and needs of women living with HIV in Los Angeles County

Client: APLA Health and Wellness

The Issue

Women comprise over 10% of HIV cases in Los Angeles County, yet relatively few services in the county are tailored for them.

APLA commissioned a needs assessment of women living with HIV to understand how local organizations can better serve them.

The Outcomes

We conducted a series of focus groups with women living with HIV, and interviews with HIV service providers from diverse organizations.

We presented study results at a meeting of HIV organizations, which subsequently used the findings to improve their programs and services.


A Qualitative Study Investigating the Needs and Gaps in Existing Services for Women Living with HIV in Los Angeles County.
Snow E, Plant A, Montoya J, Key M, Zeghar A, Bailey, J. Presented at: 2018 APHA Conference; November 10-14, 2018; San Diego, CA.

Sentient Research conducted three focus groups, with a total of 22 women living with HIV (WLWH) in Los Angeles County in 2017. Two of the groups were in English, including one with women who were recently diagnosed with HIV; and one group was in Spanish. Participant ages ranged from 43 to 74, and 91% were Latinx or African-American. Discussion topics included the needs of WLWH, availability of women-friendly services, facilitators and barriers to accessing services, and HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). We then conducted 10 key-informant interviews with stakeholders who serve WLWH in Los Angeles County.

We presented needs assessment results to 25 local service providers, and findings were integrated into plans for service improvements.

Our analysis of the qualitative data from the focus groups and interviews revealed several aspects of HIV care and support services for WLWH that were in need of improvement. Another main finding shared by both WLHW and key informants was the perception that HIV services for women in Los Angeles County had decreased over the past decade. We presented these findings with recommendations at a meeting of 25 local HIV service providers. These results were used by the organizations to guide improvements to their programs and services.


Recommendations for Improving HIV Services

Basic Living Needs. A common theme expressed by focus group participants and key informants was that for WLWH to consistently take their HIV medications and stay in care, their basic needs must first be met. This includes food, transportation, and especially housing.

Affordable housing was among the most commonly mentioned concerns of women living with HIV.


Mental Health. Focus group participants and key informants stressed the importance of professional mental health services for WLWH. They said that emotional and psychological factors can get in the way of optimal HIV disease management. Additional professional mental health services for WLWH may need to be made available and accessible, with an emphasis on trauma-informed mental health care.

Social Support and Events. Focus group participants reported benefiting from and enjoying HIV support groups, with key informants similarly expressing the importance of support groups designed specifically for WLWH. Participants said that an expansion of current support groups for women is needed, with specific groups for Spanish speakers, younger women, and older women.

Women-Centered Care. Findings from key informant interviews revealed the need for more co-located services for WLWH, especially for those women who have young children. Co-located services allow for WLWH to manage their HIV alongside receiving primary care, women’s health care, social services, and pediatric care for their children.

Continued Education. Newly diagnosed WLWH and key informants identified the need for HIV education for families and friends of clients, in addition to the clients themselves, after an HIV diagnosis. This education should include information about how HIV affects the body, how HIV medication works, and PrEP.