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HIV gender-based vulnerabilities of women using drugs in long-term heterosexual relationships: baseline results from a randomized trial in Ukraine

Author(s): Shulga, Liudmyla

Journal: Tobacco Control and Public Health in Eastern Europe
ISSN 2222-2693

Volume: 2;
Issue: S1;
Start page: 55;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: gender | HIV | drug use | condom | couples

BACKGROUND: Sexual way of HIV transmission in Ukraine outweighs parenteral route since 2007. In response to situation change couple’s counseling for IDUs was introduced and is currently tested within randomized trial.METHODS: Baseline data were collected in June-September 2011: 548 IDU couples in 10 cities were surveyed and screened for HIV and Hepatitis C. Participants were recruited using respondent-driven sampling method. RESULTS: The average age of participants varied between 30 – 33 years old with women being 3 years younger. On many aspects drug using couples in long-term relationships share the same values as non-drug using couples. However, drug use resulted into specific HIV/STIs risks for the couple. Common reasons of being with the current partner included mutual understanding (98%); similar life styles (90%); understanding life with addiction (88%); and love (87%). At the same time, looking at the quality time partners spend together, it was found that mostly, they are connected by their drug use, fear of social exclusion and economical reasons. Although these factors are important for both men and women, they have a bigger impact on women and put them into more vulnerable position: 25% have children who in 59% of cases mostly live with mother and her partner; 40% live in a partner’s house; 30% are financially supported by partners; 77% women get drugs from partners and only 20% are first one to be injected. Trust also seems to be an issue. Thus, 83% of respondents believe that they know the HIV/STI status of their partner and 90% of those believe it to be negative, while 20% of those surveyed appeared to be HIV positive and about 30% Hepatitis C positive. CONCLUSIONS: Understanding characteristics of sexual partners is crucial for HIV prevention programme design and implementation.
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