Determinants of Health

10. Health Services

Ontario spends approximately $60 million a year on HIV/AIDS-related initiatives. This does not include physician billings to OHIP or HIV/AIDS drugs.1

In Ontario, health services include any service designed to promote health, prevent disease or improve health through medical treatment. For example:

  • the province’s public health insurance plan
  • hospitals
  • drop-in clinics
  • Telehealth
  • public health units
  • pharmacies
  • dentists
  • eye exams

Unfortunately, not all services are easy to access for people with HIV or those who are at risk for HIV. A woman who uses needles to inject drugs might avoid hospitals because she doesn’t want to be arrested. Someone who is in Ontario as an out-of-country visitor might have no health coverage. A dentist might flatly refuse to treat a patient who has HIV.

Other barriers are also evident in the health-care sector such as:

  • language
  • fear of breach of confidentiality
  • lack of representation of population diversity among providers
  • health-care workers making assumptions about women based on their cultural backgrounds, first languages, accent, race, clothing, age, class, beliefs and so on
  • embarrassment or hesitancy of clients to speak about sexual health matters to health-care professionals

Women living in Canada without legal status to be here might not be aware that they can get confidential services. Someone who is newly immigrated to Canada might be waiting to qualify for government health care. There are public health clinics, hassle-free clinics and other drop-ins that do not require identifying information or OHIP cards. Some of these places have a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

While there are shortcomings and gaps in treatment and care, the provincial government gives funding to more than 90 programs and services that deliver HIV and AIDS education, prevention and support. Developing better programs, support and research specific to women is a priority for the province.

Barriers may also be evident in many agencies. Being sensitive and responsive to these barriers will help the women that service providers serve.

SHE encourages you to try our SERVICE LOCATOR – please click on the link below – to find testing locations and other local sexual health services in Toronto. Some services will help non-status women. Others offer services in multiple languages.

Please contact us! We’re here to support you and your clients.

Women and HIV/AIDS Initiative at ACT

Phone: 416-340-2437 x. 453


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1Ontario’s Response to HIV/AIDS, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, online as of June 2011