Women who use drugs, irrespective of whether these are injected or not, are faced with multiple issues which enhance their vulnerability to HIV.

In this commentary, the authors explored the HIV risks and vulnerabilities of women who use drugs as well as the interventions that have been shown to reduce their susceptibility to HIV infection.

Women who inject drugs are among the most vulnerable to HIV through both unsafe injections and unprotected sex. They are also among the most hidden affected populations, as they are more stigmatized than their male counterparts. Many sell sex to finance their own and their partner’s drug habit and often their partner exerts a significant amount of control over their sex work, condom use and injection practices.

Women who use drugs all over the world face many different barriers to HIV service access including police harassment, judgmental health personnel and a fear of losing their children.

In order to enable these women to access life-saving services including needle-syringe and condom programs, opioid substitution therapy and HIV testing and treatment, it is essential to create a conducive environment and provide tailor-made services that are adapted to their specific needs.