Saturday, January 30, 2016

Impacts of Stigma on HIV Risk for Women Who Inject Drugs in Java: A Qualitative Study

  • Javanese women who inject drugs felt stigmatized by health professionals and others.
  • This stigma contributed to feelings of shame.
  • Drug use was hidden by avoiding those who do not inject and harm reduction services.
  • Trust in their small group of injecting friends contributed to sharing needles.
People who inject drugs have experienced stigma around the world. Stigma has been found to have negative consequences for individuals in relation to health-service use, psychological wellbeing and physical health; and for populations in terms of health inequalities. Indonesia has experienced a rapid growth in injecting drug use and HIV and little is known about drivers of HIV risk among Indonesian women who inject drugs. The purpose of this paper is to describe and consider the multiple impacts of stigmatization of injecting drug use on injecting behaviors among women who inject drugs in Java.

In-depth interviews were conducted with 19 women who inject drugs in Java. Mean age was 25 years, all but one was employed or at college. The interviewers were Indonesian women.

Significant stigma around women's drug use was reported from multiple sources in Java including family, friends and health services, resulting in feelings of shame. To avoid this stigma, most of the study participants hid their drug use. They lived away from family and had few friends outside their drug-injecting circle, resulting in isolation from mainstream society and harm-reduction services. Sharing of injecting equipment was restricted to a small, closed circle of trusted friends, thus limiting possible HIV transmission to a small number of injectors.

The stigmatization of drug use, particularly of drug use by women, in Indonesia appears to have contributed to significant shame, isolation from mainstream society and high rates of sharing injecting equipment with a small group of trusted friends (particularly the partner).

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a UNSW Australia, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
b Center for Tropical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Gadjah Mada University, Bulaksumur, Yogyakarta 55281, Indonesia

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