Nabila El-Bassel Is a Guest Editor for JAIDS Special Issue on Women Who Use Drugs
NOTE: Professor El-Bassel will be hosting an event with some of the contributors to this JAIDS special issue on October 30, 2015. Stay tuned for more details.
Willma and Albert Musher Professor Nabila El-Bassel has collaborated with Harold Simon Professor Steffanie Strathdee of the University of California San Diego’s Department of Medicine on a special issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS) titled “Global Epidemiology of HIV and the State of Prevention and Treatment for Women Who Use or Inject Drugs.”
Although women comprise one third of all people who use drugs, they do so in substantial numbers. Global estimates from 2010 suggest that 4.7 million women are dependent on illicit opioid drugs, 6.3 million on amphetamines, and 2.1 million on cocaine. An estimated 3.8 million women inject drugs.
Women also have unique vulnerabilities to HIV. Globally, they comprise 50 percent of all adults who are infected with HIV. In areas most affected, this number is as high as 59 percent; in such areas, moreover, the prevalence of HIV infection among those who inject drugs is higher for women than for men.
But despite the scope of the problem, the data that has been collected on substance use, HIV, and service coverage is rarely disaggregated by gender. Women who use or inject drugs remain invisible to researchers, funders and policy makers.
To highlight the research gaps, and the implications the neglect of women has for HIV prevention and treatment, El-Bassel and Strathdee, with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), commissioned 11 articles and wrote 2 commentaries for the special JAIDS issue. They also made an effort to ensure that the first author on each article was female.
Taken together, the authors make a compelling case for more research in all areas related to women who use substances. They also called for future research to address the root causes driving the HIV epidemic among women, including stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence.
“Without thoughtful attention from governments, funders, researchers, and society at large to the needs of women who use drugs, “ said Professor El-Bassel, “the burden of the HIV and drug use epidemics will continue to grow, affecting a new generation of women and adolescent girls worldwide.”
The special JAIDS issue is available free online.