Pakistan, U.N. Agency Launch Pilot Initiative To Improve HIV Control Efforts Among Women
Pakistan and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on Tuesday launched a pilot project that aims to improve current HIV prevention services provided to female injection drug users, wives of male IDUs and female prisoners, The International News reports. According to Pakistan's National Drug Abuse Assessment 2006, there are an estimated 125,000 IDUs in the country, 50% of whom are married.
The program was officially finalized at a signing ceremony with Senior Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Narcotics Control Hassan Masood and Jean-Luc Lemahieu, chief of UNODC in Asia, the News reports. The $167,000 program will focus on improving the quality of already established services and expanding services to 1,000 female IDUs, 5,000 spouses and families of male IDUs, and 500 female prison inmates. It also plans to increase access to HIV services in prisons, create a female-specific referral system and train prison staff and outreach workers to manage the services. Project Director Nadeem-ur-Rehman said that harm reduction services in two female prisons will be created and that drop-in centers and three mobile units exclusively for female IDUs will be launched. In addition, gender training courses in harm reduction service delivery will be conducted for prison staff, peer counselors and spouses of male IDUs. The project also aims to build the capacity of institutions within civil society groups and the government to deliver quality services to the target population, the News reports.
According to the News, the project is part of UNODC's Strategic Programme Framework for Pakistan 2007-2010. The Anti Narcotics Force, national and provincial HIV/AIDS control programs, and provincial prison departments are collaborating on the project. According to a study conducted in 2007 by the nongovernmental organization Nai Zindagi, the majority of married IDUs reported regular unprotected sex with their wives, and 25% reported symptoms of sexually transmitted infections. In addition, 15% of the wives of HIV-positive IDUs were living with the disease, the study found (Maqbool, The International News, 4/23).