Why is Drug Use & Harm Reduction Important to Know About?

HIV, Hepatitis C, and a number of other infections can be transmitted by shared drug use equipment; however, a number of steps can be taken to reduce those risks and stay healthy. In Ontario, research shows that approximately 12% of women living with HIV acquired it through sharing injection equipment. The POWER study, a multi year study looking at women's health in Ontario, found that women who inject drugs across the province report riskier injection behaviours than men who inject drugs.

This can be attributed to various factors including experiences of: 

  • Poverty
  • Trauma
  • Violence
  • Sexism
  • Power

In Ontario, research shows that approximately 12% of women living with HIV acquired it through sharing injection equipment.

These factors can increase a woman's risk of HIV transmission and other infections.


What is harm reduction?

Harm reduction refers to an approach to drug use that provides options and choices to support people who use drugs to live as healthily as possible. Harm reduction offers a social justice and public health response to drug use, as opposed to a punitive and criminalizing one. Women who use drugs can define their needs best - they deserve respect and access to the types of support and care they may want to access, making harm reduction an important approach to drug use and HIV work.


What do we mean by "drugs"?

When we say "drugs", we are talking about:

prescription and non-prescription

legal and illegal drugs

drugs with a range of effects

drugs used through various modes

Women use a range of drugs.  It is important for us to include all of the above to understand and reflect women’s drug use practices.

What should women living with HIV know about using drugs? 

Women living with HIV who use drugs should be aware that the interactions between HIV medications and other drugs are not well-known and can be different for everyone.

Medications can change the impact of drugs on the body—this means that you may need to adjust the amount of the drug to get the same effect. It also means that extra care is needed to reduce risk of overdose. 

It is also possible the interactions between your HIV medications and some drugs, like methadone, can have an interaction that makes your HIV treatment less effective in your body.

Across the province, there are harm reduction services available to women who use drugs, regardless of their HIV status, including needle distribution centers and street health teams. To find services near you, contact your local  HIV service organization.

To learn more about drug use and harm reduction

To learn more about how certain drugs may interact with your HIV medications

© 2016 Women & HIV/AIDS Initiative, All Rights Reserved 

HIV411.ca HIVresourcesontario.ca Hello Ontario
Powered By

Proudly Designed by: Intent | Powered By: Oasis CMS