PEOPLE who use drugs are 22% more prone to contract HIV than those who do not, an official has said.
Speaking during a Young People Sensitisation Forum on the Dangers of Drug Use and Gender-Based Violence on Friday, UNAid community support advisor, Jeremiah Manyika said the phenomenon was a result of several factors that affected the health seeking behaviour of the vulnerable group.
“Drug use is often criminalised and stigmatised making it difficult for one to come out in the open to get help,” said Manyika.
“Criminalisation also hinders safe use of injectables as users cannot freely buy needles hence they end up using the same needles further increasing the risk of HIV transmission. Discrimination of drug users at health institutions is another challenge leading to the worrisome rate of HIV transmission as they will be living in the dark regarding their HIV statuses.”
Manyika also decried the overlap between drug addiction and sex work.
“Most of the girls are using drugs in order to sell sex without any remorse. We need to have rehabilitation centres for people who use drugs so they do not mix with those who do not use drugs as we look at intensifying harm reduction,” he added.
- MPC interest rate decision threatens forex auction system
- Making every day that of activism against GBV
- 16 days not enough, says Ruvheneko
- Churches best positioned to deal with GBV
A recent study by the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network revealed that women who use drugs face unique challenges and vulnerabilities which require specialised care and support.
An earlier community engagement also indicated that Zimbabwean women who use drugs are subjected to gender-based violence (GBV) and are victims of physical and sexual abuse.
“Stigma, discrimination and marginalisation often compound the health and social consequences they experience. Women who use drugs are at a higher risk of experiencing GBV, including sexual violence, due to factors such as coercion, exploitation, and engagement in risky behaviours to sustain their drug use. All this leads to high levels of mental health problems and self-stigma, limited access to health services and consequently more negative health outcomes. Therefore, addressing the specific needs of this population is essential to break the cycle of drug use and GBV,” partly read the report.
The Situational Analysis on Drug Use and Injection to inform the HIV and TB programming recommended that to prevent HIV and TB, viral hepatitis B and C and STIs, there was need to address sexual behaviour in relation to drug use, including sexual abuse, GBV and abusive relationships, through targeted and tailored non-judgemental information, counselling and empowerment strategies for people who use drugs.