20th International AIDS Conference - Melbourne, Australia


TUSY03 Women Drugs Users: Our Voices, Our Lives, Our Health
  Symposia Session
Venue: Clarendon Auditorium
Time: 22.07.2014, 11:00 - 12:30
Co-Chairs: Dasha Ocheret, Lithuania
Ruth Birgin, Australia

This symposium will provide a unique opportunity for women who use drugs to speak for themselves and to explore first-hand the key issues that affect their daily lives. Women drug users are one of the most marginalized groups within society and routinely experience multiple layers of stigma, discrimination, human rights violations and social isolation. The speakers in this session will include women from different regions, countries, cultures and settings representing the diversity of experience for women who use drugs. While issues to be addressed will include barriers to access to and the relevance of HIV and harm reduction services for women who use drugs, it will also include a focus on the work and commitment of women drug users themselves to provide peer-based services, run by and for women drug users, and how women drug users globally are taking action to empower and support each other to drive change.
11:00
TUSY0301
Introduction

11:10
TUSY0302
Webcast
Opioid substitution therapy for women
E. Bulan, Indonesia

11:22
TUSY0303
Powerpoint
Webcast
Sex work and drug use
E. Kokkini, Greece

11:34
TUSY0304
Powerpoint
Webcast
Violence against women who use drugs
S. Masanja, United Republic of Tanzania

11:46
TUSY0305
Powerpoint
Webcast
Sexual and reproductive health and rights
N. Pakma, India

11:58
TUSY0306
Powerpoint
Webcast
Transgender and drug use
N. Harwood, Australia

12:10
TUSY0307
Webcast
Questions and answers

12:25
TUSY0308
Webcast
Closing remarks

Powerpoints presentations
Sex work and drug use - Efi Kokkini
Sex work and drug use - Efi Kokkini

Violence against women who use drugs - Susan Masanja

Sexual and reproductive health and rights - Neiniwanda Enity Pakma

Transgender and drug use - Nyah Harwood



Rapporteur reports

Community report by Dean Camerilli


TUSY03:
Women Drugs Users: Our Voices, Our Lives, Our Health

Co-Chairs:
Dasha Ocheret, Lithuania
Ruth Birgin, Australia

This session consisted of five presenters, from different parts of the world, who have had experience with using drugs. The resounding message was that there are profound problems with many harm reduction and HIV-related services for women that use drugs, and further that women who use drugs are also heavily affected by drug policies in a way different from men. If we are going to address some of these shortfalls we need to hear and magnify the voices of women who use drugs themselves.

Sex work and drug use
E. Kokkini, Greece

Efi Kokkini talked about a situation in Greece in which sex workers and suspected sex workers were abducted in the middle of the night and on the street by the police and then taken to a camp used to process illegal immigrants. There, they were all forced to have an HIV test and the women who tested positive were photographed and their images handed over to the local press. TV news reported the program as successful in removing these women from the streets who, they outrageously claimed, were putting society at risk. There was an overwhelming feeling that the general public where happy with what the Ministry of Health had done. 

HIV was then criminalised, and the women were jailed solely because they were HIV positive.  This was one of the worse examples of criminalisation and violence relating to HIV seen to date. Human rights activists lobbied and eventually the women were released.  They received compensation for what happened, as well as an official apology from the Police. 

Violence against women who use drugs
S. Masanja, United Republic of Tanzania

Susan Masanja spoke the situation facing women using drugs face in Tanzania.  The law currently prohibits discrimination based on gender but it is not effective because the judicial system takes into account customary and Islamic laws. 

The number of complaints has drastically escalated in recent years, but there are still no laws which punish domestic violence. Many women are reported to be killed by their husbands or commit suicide after repeated violence. Many women have simply accepted that violence is a part of married life for women in Africa. 

Women is the region need better information to know how to challenge this behaviour, and need the support of the global community for their basic human rights. 

 

Sexual and reproductive health and rights
N. Pakma, India

Neiniwanda Enity Pakma, from India, talked about drug use with a focus on alcohol, heroin and cannabis. Most commonly identified health problems were primarily related to the women’s drug and alcohol use, reproductive health and mental health. Other notes of concern mentioned include social exclusion, violence, children’s welfare, and financial difficulties. She indicated a strong need for women-only integrated health services, women-only detoxification and rehabilitation services, mental health services, sensitisation of mainstream health workers, free access to medicines, assistance meeting basic needs, and a safe place to engage in sex work.

Opioid substitution therapy for women
E. Bulan, Indonesia

Erni Bulan is a member of PKNI Indonesian drug user network is and is actively involved in research with women who use drugs. 

Methadone has been available since 2003 in Indonesia: at the clinic that Erni accesses there are a total 70 clients, however only 8 are women. She discussed how women’s families must provide a “guarantee” prior to being able to access methadone treatment.  High on their list of needs were employment opportunities and help with looking after their children; and these are just a few of the barriers mentioned that stop women from being able to access the services they need. 

 




Track D report by Le Minh Giang


Issues faced by women who use drugs are often invisible or neglected in HIV/AIDS research and program agenda. The session brought together a number of women from different countries (Greece, India, Indonesia, Tanzania and Australia) to speak powerfully about experiences of their own or their communities as well as about their work in advocating for and supporting other women who use drugs. Their testimony provided painful accounts of marginalization, multiple layers of stigma and discrimination, human rights violations. However, more importantly, we also learned about their courage and determination to overcome hardship and challenges.  One woman in Indonesia got elected to become a member of the National Assembly, and her story was an inspiring example that begs question of what is considered as “success” in the fight against HIV. In addition to neat statistics and facts provided by scientists throughout the conference, the narratives of the women, sometimes messy, are what would be driving the fight against the epidemic forwards. The efforts by INPUD (International Network of People Who Use Drug) and INWUD (International Network of Women Who Use Drug) to bring to the fore both the challenges and the commitment of women drug users themselves are invaluable in the fight against not only the HIV epidemic but also against injustice and inequality. Discussion highlight further the need to collect systematic data about women who use drugs and the social, legal and health issues that they face.




   

    The organizers reserve the right to amend the programme.