Mardge Cohen, MD
WE-ACTx and Boston Health Care for the Homeless
Dr. Cohen will review the challenges women with HIV faced over the past 30 years and program development and
strategies to meet these challenges. She will cover HIV, other chronic illnesses and mental illness, trauma, substance use
disorder, stigma and food insecurity in women with HIV in the U.S. and Rwanda, emphasizing the importance of hearing
women’s voices in order to meet their needs.
Dr. Mardge H. Cohen is an internist who worked at Cook County Hospital in Chicago for over 30 years, and has a
long history of activism related to women’s health, health disparities, and fighting for high quality single payer
health care. In 1988, she responded to the requests of women with HIV and started the Women and Children HIV
Program to provide comprehensive medical and psychosocial services to women, their partners, and children at a
single site at Cook County Hospital. She led the CDC funded research in Chicago on HIV testing among women in
labor and then directed the public health implementation of rapid HIV testing in labor and delivery areas for all
Illinois birthing hospitals. Since 1994, she has led the Chicago consortium of the National Institute of Health’s
Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), the longest running cohort study investigating HIV disease progression in
In 2004, she co-founded Women’s Equity in Access to Care and Treatment (WE-ACTx) to facilitate HIV primary
care for women who were infected after being raped during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. WE-ACTx, with the
Rwandan local organization WE-ACTx For Hope, provides comprehensive HIV care to over 2500 persons in Kigali,
integrating mental health care, nutrition and income generation within HIV primary care for women, children,
youth and their families. Since 2012, Dr. Cohen has co-led an NICHD research study to improve adherence to
antiretroviral therapy of 14-21 year olds with HIV in Kigali.
Since 2008, Dr. Cohen practices part time at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, including
precepting first and second year medical students from Boston University in their weekly Healthcare for the
Homeless Immersion Elective.