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Advances in Preventive Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 269123, 10 pages
Review Article

Developing Effective Health Interventions for Women Who Inject Drugs: Key Areas and Recommendations for Program Development and Policy

1Department of Slavic Languages, Columbia University, 1130 Amsterdam Avenue, Mail Code 2839, New York, NY 10027, USA
2Public Health Policy, Harm Reduction International, Unit 2D12 South Bank Technopark, 90 London Road, London SE1 6LN, UK
3Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, Barnett House, 32 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2ER, UK
4Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, P.O. Box 19070, Tygerberg 7505, South Africa
5Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Faculty of Health Sciences Private Bag, Observatory, Cape Town 7935, South Africa

Received 6 August 2012; Accepted 14 September 2012

Academic Editor: Thomas F. Kresina

Copyright © 2012 Sophie Pinkham et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Women who inject drugs face multiple gender-specific health risks and barriers to healthcare access. These gendered factors may contribute to elevated rates of HIV for this population. Though few countries systematically collect gender-disaggregated data related to injecting drug use, evidence indicates that there are large populations of women who inject drugs and who are in need of improved health services, including HIV prevention. Research on the effectiveness of interventions specifically tailored for women who inject drugs, along with the experience of programs working with this subpopulation, suggests that HIV risk practices need to be addressed within the larger context of women's lives. Multifaceted interventions that address relationship dynamics, housing, employment, and the needs of children may have more success in reducing risky practices than interventions that focus exclusively on injecting practices and condom use. Improved sexual and reproductive healthcare for women who use drugs is an area in need of development and should be better integrated into basic harm reduction programs.