Women who inject drugs face multiple gender-specific health risks and barriers to healthcare access. These gendered factors may contribute to elevated rates of HIV for this population. Though few countries systematically collect gender-disaggregated data related to injecting drug use, evidence indicates that there are large populations of women who inject drugs and who are in need of improved health services, including HIV prevention.
Research on the effectiveness of interventions specifically tailored for women who inject drugs, along with the experience of programs working with this subpopulation, suggests that HIV risk practices need to be addressed within the larger context of women’s lives.
Multifaceted interventions that address relationship dynamics, housing, employment, and the needs of children may have more success in reducing risky practices than interventions that focus exclusively on injecting practices and condom use. Improved sexual and reproductive healthcare for women who use drugs is an area in need of development and should be better integrated into basic harm reduction programs.