Developing Effective Health Interventions for Women Who Inject Drugs: Key Areas and Recommendations for Program Development and Policy

February 2013 - Structural Prevention

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Pinkham, S., Stoicescu, C., & Myers, B. Advances in Preventive Medicine (September 2012), Vol. 2012.

The authors use existing evidence to review the experiences of females who inject drugs (FWID) compared with men who inject drugs, and to suggest strategies for HIV prevention interventions. Findings showed that FWID are at an elevated risk for HIV, and face barriers accessing health care. Overlap between sexual and drug social networks was common in FWID. Intimate partner violence was more commonly reported among FWID than among women in the general population. Evidence suggested an overlap between FWID and sex work. Women's motivations for seeking treatment for drug use varied from that of men; pregnancy, or a partner initiating treatment, were common. Females who injected drugs had limited access to prenatal care, and the authors warn that harm reduction programs may not address all their sexual and reproductive health needs. Further, an increasing number of women were being incarcerated for injection drug use and in need of healthcare; in some contexts, the HIV rate was higher among incarcerated women than men. While harm reduction programs have been successful in reducing drug-related risk, there has been less improvement with unsafe sexual behaviors. However, many interventions for FWID have been successful. The authors conclude that comprehensive, multidisciplinary interventions specific to the needs of FWID, accompanied by policies that empower women to seek health care, are necessary.

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