HIV in women who use drugs: Double neglect, double risk

July 20, 2010

A Comment in The Lancet Series on HIV says that HIV infections continue to rise in drug-involved women,especially injecting drug users in Asia and eastern Europe, and in crack-cocaine users in the USA and other countries. Women who use drugs are doubly at risk for HIV infection via unprotected sex and unsafe injections. The Comment is by Dr Nabila El-Bassel, Columbia University School of Social Work, New York, USA, and colleagues.

Many women who use drugs lack the power to negotiate safer sex. Yet, most available HIV-prevention strategies put the onus on women to insist on safe sex, increasing their risk of physical and sexual abuse. The authors say: "Drug-involved women often rely on their partners to procure the drugs that they share, and because women are often injected by their partners, they are 'second on the needle', which increases their risk for infection by HIV and other pathogens. Refusing to share needles and syringes can also increase women's risk of physical and sexual intimate , further potentiating risks for ."

The authors propose a number of strategies to prevent HIV infection in women who use drugs:

  1. Trauma-informed strategies that concurrently address co-occurring problems of intimate partner violence and drug use.
  2. Couple-based HIV prevention, treatment, and care options for drug-involved women and their sex partners that include skills building for safe-sex negotiation within context of ongoing drug use.
  3. Empowerment strategies, such as social network, community-based, community mobilisation, and peer-led interventions.
  4. Income-generating interventions for women (including job training and microfinance, access to employment).
  5. Public policies that: fight discrimination and gender-based violence; stop police mistreatment, arrest, and registration of female ; and increase access to drug treatment and care.
  6. Increased funding to make drug treatment, harm reduction, and HIV-prevention services more available and friendly to women, by addressing the needs of pregnant women, mothers, and women with a history of intimate partner violence and trauma; and by protecting human rights of women who use drugs.
  7. Increased research funding to improve and support women-specific evidence-based services, and to improve knowledge on global epidemiology of women who use drugs, especially in developing countries. Researchers must make greater attempts to include , even if they are harder to recruit due to being fewer in number and hidden.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

HIV-AIDS: Following your gut

September 18, 2017
Researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) have discovered a way to slow viral replication in the gastrointestinal tract of people infected by HIV-AIDS.

Study finds cutbacks in foreign aid for HIV treatment would cause great harm

August 30, 2017
Proposed reductions in U.S. foreign aid would have a devastating impact on HIV treatment and prevention programs in countries receiving such aid, an international team of investigators reports. In their paper published online ...

Cancer drug can reactivate HIV

August 24, 2017
People living with HIV must take a combination of three or more different drugs every day for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, by following this strict treatment plan, they can suffer from side effects ranging from ...

New injectable antiretroviral treatment proved to be as effective as standard oral therapy

August 3, 2017
Intramuscularly administered antiretroviral therapy (ART) may be as effective for HIV treatment as current oral therapies. This is the main conclusion of a Phase II clinical trial carried out by 50 research centers around ...

Research finds home-based kit would increase HIV testing

July 31, 2017
Research led by William Robinson, PhD, Associate Research Professor of Behavioral & Community Health Sciences at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health, has found that 86% of heterosexuals who are at high risk for ...

Scientists divulge latest in HIV prevention

July 25, 2017
A far cry from the 1990s "ABC" campaign promoting abstinence and monogamy as HIV protection, scientists reported on new approaches Tuesday allowing people to have all the safe sex they want.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.