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Women, harm reduction, and HIV

PINKHAM, Sophie
MALINOWSKA-SEMPRUCH, Kasia
September 2007

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This report looks at factors that reduce women drug users’ access to health care including punitive policies, discrimination by police and health care providers, the intense social stigma attached to drug use by women, a preponderance of harm reduction and drug treatment programmes directed primarily toward men, an absence of sexual and reproductive health services for drug users, and poor access to effective outpatient drug treatment. Pregnant drug users are particularly vulnerable. In too many instances, they receive little or no accurate information about drug use during pregnancy or prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In some countries pregnant drug users are rejected by health care providers, threatened with criminal penalties or loss of parental rights, or coerced into having an abortion or abandoning their newborns to the state. Poor access to medication-assisted treatment jeopardises the pregnancies of opiate-dependent drug users. It includes recommendations for consideration when designing services for women drug users and also examines issues around policies to protect women's health

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