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Tailoring programs to women who use drugs

In this video, Ruth Birgin from WHRIN talks about a gender perspective to harm reduction and practical solutions to adapt to women who use drugs

At the beginning of this week’s topic, Naomi mentioned that women who use drugs are particularly vulnerable in terms of their health and are at a greater risk of HIV viral hepatitis infection then men who use drugs. In this video Ruth Birgin, from the Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN) expands on the particular vulnerabilities of women who use drugs and breaks down some of the mechanisms causing enhanced risks.

We hope you notice some familiarities with the intersectionality sessions from Week 1, or perhaps from other sessions touching on vulnerability factors or protective environments.

Ruth will not only guide us through the status quo, but will provide practical recommendations, such as:

  • offering sexual and reproductive health services tailored to the needs of women who use drugs
  • including tailored outreach
  • providing programs to prevent gender based violence
  • supporting survivors of violence
  • contraception
  • maternal and new-born health
  • safe abortion
  • post abortion services
  • etc,

There is a growing recognition of the great lack of progress on addressing the issue around women who use drugs. Ruth helps us understand that sometimes, something as simple as adapting the opening hours of a Harm Reduction centre, adapted to the needs of women who use drugs, can make a huge difference.

In the next topic of this week we will further explore how including female peer-workers in a harm reduction team is a fundamental component of a community based project.


You will find some documents attached in the ‘see also’ section below. This is just a selection, there are many more available online. You can find a useful virtual library here on the website of WHRIN. Feel free to share some of your suggested documentation with your fellow students in the comments section.

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Drug Use and Harm Reduction

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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