New research: The Impact of Global Drug Policy on Women: Shifting the Needle

December 10, 2020

SIG researchers just published two chapters in a new ebook on 1) women who use drugs and face disproportionate levels of intimate partner and gender-based violence, and 2) overdose risks and prevention strategies for pregnant and postpartum people.

SIG researchers just published two chapters as part of a new book entitled The Impact of Global Drug Policy on Women: Shifting the Needle.

three authors

Chapter 5, Nexus of Risk: The Co-occurring Problems of Gender-based Violence, HIV and Drug Use Among Women and Adolescent Girls

Authors: Claudia Stoicescu, Ariel Richer, Louisa Gilbert

Women who use drugs face disproportionate levels of intimate partner violence and other forms of gender-based violence and higher HIV/HCV risks. In this new publication, Dr. Stoicescu, Ms. Richer, and Dr. Gilbert  highlight gaps in existing policy, intervention, and implementation research and make recommendations on how to tackle them.

Trauma plays a catalytic role in perpetuating gender-based violence (GBV), drug use, and HIV among women and adolescent girls. Targeting trajectories of trauma from childhood to adulthood has a powerful impact on interrupting this vicious circle and promoting women's well-being.

Risk environments like punitive drug laws, poverty, mass incarceration, beliefs about gender roles, and limited economic opportunities for women fuel the GBV, HIV and drug use #SAVA syndemic (substance abuse, violence and AIDS) among women and girls. Promoting women's well-being is only possible through a continuum of multilevel integrated interventions & conducive policy reform.

Multilevel interventions that target the risk environments and syndemic mechanisms linking these intersecting epidemics that have been found to be effective in reducing intimate partner violence and other forms of GBV, drug use, and HIV/HCV risks. 

IPV screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment and services (SBIRT) models that may be integrated within a continuum of HIV/HCV test and treat interventions effectively target the #SAVA syndemic among women and girls. The WINGS intervention developed by SIG has been effectively implemented as part of a wide range of services and programs in six countries and in eight languages.

In Kyrgyzstan, women participating in WINGS reported experiencing 59% fewer physical intimate-partner violence (IPV) incidents, 27% fewer physical GBV incidents, a 65% reduction in the odds of using any drugs, and increased likelihood of receiving GBV-related services at three-month follow up. 

Evidence from the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa suggests that reducing the risk of IPV also reduces the risk of HIV, HCV, and other STIs. Interventions have the greatest impact when integrated with HIV, harm reduction and drug treatment services, incl naloxone distribution for the prevention of overdose.

Community mobilization interventions are increasingly recognized as critical to reducing GBV by changing norms and behaviors. Research conducted mostly in Africa and India suggests that over time such interventions can successfully achieve reductions in GBV, as well as HIV and STI incidence.

Read the full Chapter.


Chapter 22, Overdose Risks and Prevention Strategies for Pregnant Women in New York City

Author: Bethany Medley

People who experience pregnancy face unique overdose risks. In this new publication, Bethany Medley illustrates these risks by highlighting expertise curated by women’s lived experiences.

Elevating the voices and experiences of people who have experienced pregnancy and postpartum is essential in developing and implementing gender-responsive overdose prevention interventions.

Developing Harm Reduction and overdose prevention strategies for women of reproductive age who may experience pregnancy during their drug use trajectory requires collaborative efforts with those with lived experience.

Ms. Medley promotes the importance of inclusive involvement of women with lived experience of pregnancy and drug use throughout the development, evaluation, and implementation of impacting systems and policies.

Read the full Chapter.

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