By Women, For Women: New Approaches to Harm Reduction in Russia

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In Russia, as in many countries, women who use drugs face profound structural and individual challenges to accessing essential health care. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Russia is home to 1.6 million injecting drug users, and women are believed to make up as many as 40 percent. Yet local harm reduction groups report as few as one in six of their clients is female.

This new fact sheet documents how five harm reduction projects in cities and towns throughout Russia have shown that targeted, gender-sensitive programming can promote higher participation amongst women drug users and ultimately enable safer behavior. Indeed, where such programs exist, the proportion of female-to-male clients soon draws even. Some of the gender-sensitive initiatives detailed include:

  • Women-only drop-in centers
  • Peer-based outreach efforts that promote confidentiality and personal safety
  • Referrals to trained, friendly physicians at local AIDS clinics and maternity centers
  • Housing support and legal services

A rapid expansion of gender-sensitive harm reduction programs and the number of participants they serve is essential for improved access of vulnerable women and their children to lifesaving services. By Women, For Women provides an important guide to the necessary elements to ensure this growth is effective in Russia and elsewhere.