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Training to improve care for women who inject drugs

Santo Domingo, 29 August 2019. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Central America and the Caribbean (UNODC ROPAN), the National Drug Council and the National Health Service, with funding from the Country Envelop of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNA, provided training to improve care for women who inject drugs.

The international expert Dr. Maria Zarza gave the workshop at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and at the opening ceremony, Dr. Maria Victoria Vólquez Medrano, care manager, spoke on behalf of Dr. Mirna Font-Frias, Director of the Regional Metropolitan Health Service (SRSM), along with the representative of UNODC in the Dominican Republic, Begoña Gomez, to give words of motivation to participants.

The training was aimed at health professionals in the areas of psychology and medicine, to support the treatment and care of women drug users living with HIV. The 36 participants were certified as belonging to the Integral Care Units, the Center for Integral Care of Dependencies (CAIDEP), COIN, several hospitals in the country and the NGO Mesón de Dios. 

One in eight people who inject drugs worldwide has HIV, according to data published in the World Drug Report 2019.

The report explains that by 2017, the total number of people who inject drugs worldwide was 11.3 million and that the adverse health consequences associated with drug use remain significant.
According to estimates by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), injecting drug users are 22 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population.
The representative of UNODC further indicated that among drug users, injecting drug users are the most marginalized and stigmatized among drug users.

A particularly vulnerable subgroup are women who inject drugs and more disaggregated data are needed to better understand the needs of this population. Even with the lack of sufficient statistical data, the 2019 Report underlines that treatment of drug users is not tailored to the specific needs of women. Added to this is the social stigma attached to these women, which discourages them from seeking treatment. Women deprived of liberty are an even more vulnerable population, demonstrating higher rates of drug use than in other populations (51% of women entering prison use drugs, compared to 30% of men).
They are also disproportionately imprisoned for drug-related offences (35% of women in prison, compared to 19% of men in the same conditions).
Given the complexity of the drug phenomenon, as well as the variables that limit access to treatment for people who use drugs and live with HIV, this training focuses on respect for the right to health, integration of services, and strengthening the skills of professionals to maintain the link with care devices.
The importance of increasing inter-institutional partnerships so that health professionals can easily refer patients was also underscored.
In addition, the workshop aims to present strategies to increase services and improve the quality of life of this vulnerable population.
After this training, the participant will have the basic knowledge and skills to effectively treat women who inject drugs and live with HIV in Integrated Care Services.