Ukraine is one of the worst-affected countries in Europe with more than 1% of adult population living with the human immunodeficiency virus now. Injecting drug use remains the driving force in this epidemic, where most injectors are male. However, the number of newly-reported HIV infections among women who inject drugs has increased (hereinafter: female IDUs) – almost half of all HIV infections in the group – and it is growing.
While precise numbers of female IDUs living with HIV are not available, in part because women remain reluctant to report their drug use to healthcare providers, many new HIV cases among women seem to stem from injecting drug use or sex with a drug-injecting partner.
Research in Ukraine and from around the world shows that male and female injecting drug users face different risks. The risk behavior of female IDUs is associated with a higher risk of HIV infection than male IDUs. Women are more likely to have sexual partners who inject drugs. These risks are added to women’s greater biological vulnerability to HIV compared to men. Women are more likely to need help injecting, to use drugs in the context of a sexual relationship, and to rely on a man to obtain or cook drugs. All of these factors can increase women’s vulnerability to HIV. Gaps in the gender-specific services provided within harm reduction projects create obstacles to ending the epidemic.
Objective: To ensure that women have equal access to gender sensitive and quality assured HIV prevention and care.
Target population: women and their injecting drug sex partners who are not covered with prevention programs.
Objectives and tasks:
- To develop and introduce gender policy, procedures and gender-sensitive services in the Organization to achieve technical excellence in implementing a gender sensitive approach to harm reduction programs
- To inform and train the Organization’s staff to apply gender policy and procedures in delivering gender sensitive services
- To scale up the coverage of women who inject drugs and their sexual partners with basic harm reduction services.
Implemented as a pilot project in Kyiv in 2016 with financial support from Expertise France 5% Initiative through ICF Alliance for Public Health.