A guide for service providers, managers and outreach workers in harm reduction and HIV-related services, to help them expand access to women who inject drugs through gender-sensitive and gender-specific services. It also acknowledges that in some settings women require services provided separately from (or in addition to) services targeting men.
The risks and potentially devastating health consequences are even greater for women, who represent in many countries a growing share of all people who inject drugs. HIV and injecting drug use are an often-ignored combination among women. As a result, women who inject drugs (WID) have less access than men to harm reduction services, even where they are in place, and are more likely than their male counterparts to acquire HIV. Such discrepancies underscore the urgent need for improved efforts to better reach and support all WID.
Purpose of this Guide
The present Practical Guide offers suggestions for mainstreaming gender into existing services for people who inject drugs. At the same time, it acknowledges that, in some settings, women require services provided separately from or in addition to services targeting men. The main purposes of this Practical Guide are to:
- Assist harm reduction service providers to expand access to women who inject drugs through appropriate gender-sensitive and gender-specific services.
- Motivate and support harm reduction service providers to address gender issues within existing services and/or to develop gender-specific services.
- Provide advice on setting targets for scale-up to improve access to comprehensive HIV and care services, and thereby expand coverage among women who inject drugs.
This Practical Guide is intended for existing harm reduction and HIV-related service providers, managers, health-care workers and outreach workers, as well as those planning to work directly with women who inject drugs. Given the wide range of contextual variables (such as epidemiological factors, resource availability, extent and types of structural barriers, socio cultural issues, staff experience, etc.) that may have impact on the provision of women-specific harm reduction services, this Guide does not prescribe specific sets of protocols to be followed for particular types of women-specific services. Instead, it presents key objectives, priorities and rationales that should inform the design and implementation of services for women who inject drugs.