The New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society (NHVMAS), in collaboration with Equal Right Advocacy Initiative and the Network of People Who Use Drugs, have called for gender responsive harm reduction for women who use drugs in Nigeria.
Speaking during an online training for journalists, the executive director of NHVMAS, Florita Durueke, explained that the gender perspective in HIV in the past few weeks gathered from Gender Responsive Peogram conducted in Oyo and Abia States, have shown that people who use drugs have HIV prevalence rate of 3.4 percent even higher than the general prevalence rate in Nigeria estimated at 1.4 percent in general.
Durueke decried the high prevalence of women against their male counterparts which is estimated at 13.9 percent. She attributed the high prevalence in women to gender issues as women who use drugs engage in transactional sex to get money to buy drugs.
“Baseline assessment has shown their vulnerability stems from low financial status which result in them sharing niddles and syringes. Drug use has also led to incidences of sexual harassment and rape even among police officials who raid their bunk or settlements”
“During the cause of our program, these group of women asked for support for condoms, lubricants to condoms, facilitation to access of Prep, rehabilitation and source of livelihood and skill acquisition to help them stop drug use. They also asked for better housing to live better”, she said.
Durueke stated that community facilitators are mainly young people who help push sensitization to help achieve primary target of necessary HIV education, facilitate access to key prevention services and stimulate community dialogues for better policies for drug users.
She said the project will involve stakeholders including the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to check the peculiarities around drugs guiding drug users.
Also speaking, a South African advocate and executive director for Advocacy For The Prevention Of HIV In Africa, Yvette Raphael pointed out that the HIV problem is a young people’s problem, adding that she is working with young girls, adolescents to change the narrative for them as she has learnt from experience as someone living with HIV that her background as a black woman and African who is not from a wealthy home were factors that worked against her when she first got tested.
She said in 2020, adolescent girls and women between 15-24 in Sub-saharan Africa accounted for 25 percent of HIV infections accounting for 10 percent of the population.
Key populations, commercial sex workers, gay men and partners and people who inject drugs have accounted for 65 percent globally.
Raphael noted that young people have to be included at the conceptualization of programs concerning them. She also noted that their advocacy programs are facilitated through social media and community radio.
She said they engage young people in their community and spaces to talk with young people on HIV prevention. Advocating for the use of Prep ring and other preventive tools she also stated that government in South Africa pays 75 percent of HIV medication but nothing on prevention programs.
The advocate also disclosed that while working with pregnant and lactating women in clinical research she works with global advisory board to allow pregnant women rescind participation or continue when they fall pregnant during research, adding that in most cases women choose to continue with study.
Earlier, during it’s online training, NHVMAS had bemoaned gaps in research involving pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers as they are often asked to discontinue clinical trial research when they fall pregnant, the organization also advocated for inclusion of pregnant women to allow for data availability in dealing with pregnant women in HIV treatment. NNL.