Female Injecting Drug Users and HIV/AIDS Harm Reduction

Helpdesk Query:

A few key readings on women, harm reduction practices, HIV/AIDS and women as injecting drug users (IDUs).


Harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop. The defining features are the focus on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself, and the focus on people who continue to use drugs.

It is estimated that 15.9 million people inject drugs in 158 countries and territories around the world. In some countries, in particular in Central and Eastern Europe and East Asia, injecting drug use is the primary driver of HIV epidemics. In some places, up to 80 per cent of people living with HIV are likely to have acquired the virus through unsafe injecting. Evidence suggests that more than three million people who inject drugs are living with HIV.

The helpdesk response covers the following issues:

• What is harm reduction?
o Overview
o Key documents
o Asia focus
o Africa focus
• Women as injecting drug users (IDUs), harm reduction and HIV
• Women IDUs and sex work
• Women IDUs and prison
• Harm reduction, human rights and cultural issues
• Additional Information

Full Report: Women and Harm Reduction- May 2010 [PDF- 200 KB]

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