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Global Epidemiology of HIV Among Women and Girls Who Use or Inject Drugs: Current Knowledge and Limitations of Existing Data

Sarah Larney, Bradley M Mathers, Tonia Poteat, Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Louisa Degenhardt
Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: JAIDS 2015 June 1, 69 Suppl 2: S100-9
25978476

BACKGROUND: Women and girls who use and inject drugs are a critical population at risk of HIV. In this article, we review data on the epidemiology of drug use and injection among women globally and HIV prevalence among women and girls who use and inject drugs.

RESULTS: Women and girls comprise one-third of people who use and inject drugs globally. There is substantial variation in HIV prevalence in this population, between and within countries. There is a pronounced lack of data examining HIV risk among particularly vulnerable subpopulations of women who use and inject drugs, including women who have sex with women, transgender women, racial and ethnic minority women, and young women. Women who use and inject drugs experience stigma and discrimination that affect access to services, and high levels of sexual risk exposures.

CONCLUSIONS: There are significant gaps in our understanding of the epidemiology of drug use and injecting among women and girls and HIV risk and prevalence in this population. Women are frequently underrepresented in studies of drug use and HIV risk and prevalence among people who inject drugs, limiting our understanding of possible sex differences in this population. Most research originates from developed countries and may not be generalizable to other settings. A great deal of work is needed to improve understanding of HIV among particularly vulnerable subpopulations, such as transgender women who use drugs. Better data are critical to efforts to advocate for the needs of women and girls who use and inject drugs.

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