Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries

Drug Use and HIV: addressing the specific needs of women who use drugs and people in prisons

Dushanbe, Tajikistan

28 - 30 September, Dushanbe, Tajikistan -  UNODC organised a regional workshop in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Drug Use and HIV: addressing the specific needs of women who use drugs and people in prisons. The workshop was supported by the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, and included over sixty participants from all five countries of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Regional experts and practitioners, international experts, and representatives from UNODC's country offices across the region provided presentations, answered questions, and shared experiences on drug treatment and HIV-related services in prison settings, and gender-sensitive approaches to providing harm reduction and drug treatment. 

Ms. Signe Rotberga, Head of the UNODC Astana Office, and Mr. Nadeem Rehman, Coordinator of the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, opened the workshop, emphasizing UNODC's commitment to working with marginalised populations most vulnerable to HIV-prisoners and women who use drugs. The first day of the workshop focused on prison populations, and featured presentations from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Republic of Tajikistan and the Penal Correction Head Office under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Tajikistan. Mr. Ehab Salah, UNODC Advisor on Prisons and HIV in Vienna offered a presentation on best practices for preventing HIV in closed settings, and Mr. Xavier Majo I Roca from the Programme on Substance Abuse, Public Health Agency of Catelonia, shared Spain's experience and success with evidence-based services to prevent HIV in prisons. Representatives from the Islamic Republic of Iran presented Iran's successful HIV prevention programs in prisons, and government and NGO practitioners from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan presented current practices and future plans to provide HIV services in prisons.

Ms. Nazokat Kasimova of the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia in Uzbekistan, and Ms. Katya Burns, UNODC consultant, opened the second day of the workshop which focused on one of the most vulnerable, yet least served populations-women who inject drugs. The day featured presentations by networks and NGOs from across the region, including a presentation on national gender policies in regards to HIV and AIDS in Tajikistan by Ms. Svitlana Moroz of the Eurasian Women AIDS Network, and a presentation on gender equality in response to HIV epidemics by Ms. Lyubov Chubukova of the Central Asian Association of People Living with HIV. Ms. Katya Burns provided a presentation on gender-specific vulnerabilities and best practice interventions for women who use drugs which focused on drug treatment and PMTCT for women drug users, followed by presentations from NGOs Faith. Hope. Love. from Ukraine, WINGS of Hope from Kyrgyzstan, Asteriya from Kyrgyzstan, Intilish from Uzbekistan, and SPIN Plus from Tajikistan. Many presenters highlighted the critical issue of violence against women who use drugs. From West Asia, presenters introduced programs for women who use drugs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and for women prisoners in Iran and Pakistan.

The final day of the workshop focused on contributions to the regional dialogue on drug policy and HIV in preparation for UNGASS 2016 on the World Drug Problem. Presenters from each country represented at the workshop provided their inputs and facilitated discussion on their country's preparations and insights for the UNGASS process. 

Workshop participants pledged to move forward in preparation for UNGASS and continue to raise the important issues in HIV prevention for prisoners and women who inject drugs.