SIG Director Dr. El-Bassel Featured in Two Articles

Eleni Vlachos
April 08, 2021

Dr. El-Bassel was quoted in The News Station about justice-involved women who use drugs and in the Infectious Disease Special Edition on HIV and the opioid epidemic.

SIG Director Dr. Nabila El-Bassel was quoted in two recent articles: One in the Infectious Disease Special Edition on HIV and opioid use, and the other in The News Station on justice-involved women who use drugs.

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HIV and Opioid Use: A Symbiotic Relationship

Dr. El-Bassel was quoted throughout this article exploring the "intertwined syndemic" of HIV and opioid use. An excerpt:

“The opioid and HIV epidemics are unassailably intertwined into a ‘syndemic’,” agreed Nabila El-Bassel, PhD, a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work, in New York City. “The availability of opioids is ubiquitous, both through misuse of prescribed opioid pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs. This has led more individuals to inject and share needles and syringes; thus, more people have become infected with HIV.”


Strategies that integrate MOUD into HIV care are critical to achieving HIV viral suppression among patients living with HIV and opioid use disorder.

Dr. El-Bassel, IDSE

In the article, Dr. El-Bassel also shares the following:

“'Injection drug users who are living with HIV have very limited access to opioid use treatment. Attempting to retain patients with opioid use disorders who are not receiving opioid treatment combined with their HIV care remains serious, and needs attention.'

El-Bassel noted that 'the opioid and HIV syndemic share major structural drivers such as poverty, economic inequities, health disparities, a lack of integrations of services, and a market-driven health care system with poor access to health care insurance, and a lack of rules and regulations for pharmaceutical market placement.

'Each of these drivers limits access to drug treatment, HIV services and care, and continue to heighten the spread of the syndemic,' she said."

Read the full article (requires free registration).

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Why is America Home to 30% of Imprisoned Women Across the Globe?

In an article exploring the disproportionate number of women incarcerated for drug-related matters, Dr. El-Bassel lends her expertise from decades of working with justice-involved women who use drugs. An excerpt:

“They (women) are often initiated into drug use by male partners, who exert a significant amount of control of their drug use and sexual practices,” El-Bassel told The News Station. “Gender-power dynamics often relegate women to be ‘second to the needle’ (if injection drug use) and make condom negotiation difficult. Disagreements over drug use or sexual practices place women at additional risk for intimate partner violence, which can further exacerbate drug use through self-medicating as a coping mechanism.”

Incarceration interferes with housing, social services, food aid, travel, employment, education, and parenting; and the repeated cycles of violence, extortion, arrest, detention, and release are especially socially and economically destabilizing for women who use drugs.

Dr. El-Bassel, The News Station