FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Women who use drugs struggle on their own
New Malaysian AIDS Council report identifies gaps in harm reduction, health, social and welfare services for women who use drugs; raises concern over intimate partner violence
KUALA LUMPUR, 5 March 2015 – Women who use drugs in Malaysia are being left behind by the current existing health care and social support services, forcing them to fend for themselves in resource-poor settings and predisposing them to increased risk of intimate partner violence, a new report launched today by Malaysian AIDS Council has revealed.
Titled Everything on My Own: A Policy Brief on Women Who Use Drugs in Malaysia, the publication offers a snapshot into the lives and experiences of women who use drugs in Malaysia, based on a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with 38 women who use drugs in the Klang Valley area, Kelantan, Johor, and Penang.
“While very little is known about the population size, socio-demographics, characteristics, drug using behaviour and many other aspects of women who use drugs, our work on the ground has identified gaps in the current harm reduction, health and welfare services that fail to address the gender specific concerns and needs of this extremely hidden key sub-population, such as childcare, sexual and reproductive health, and domestic violence,” explained Datuk Dr. Raj Karim, President of the Malaysian AIDS Council.
Treatment services for drug addiction and harm reduction in Malaysia, while proven to be largely successful in reducing new HIV infections in injecting drug users, are heavily focused on male drug users.
Women who use drugs in Malaysia often have their children removed from them, either by social services or by extended family members. They face increased levels of stigma from service providers, the general population, and their own families and friends as compared to their male counterparts. More alarmingly, one-fifth of the women interviewed reported experiencing intimate partner violence (including their husbands).
“If we are serious about ending HIV and AIDS, then our health care and welfare systems and infrastructures must meet the gender specific needs and respect the health rights of the most vulnerable, including women who use drugs. We hope that the issues and recommendations put forth in the report will serve as a guide for the relevant authorities and policy makers to effect change,” Datuk Raj further added.
The report and the study informing it were made possible through a European Union grant via the Asia Action on Harm Reduction project based at the Malaysian AIDS Council, in collaboration with Universiti Sains Malaysia and University of Malaya. It was launched in conjunction with International Women’s Day (observed globally on 8 March every year).
Findings of the study will contribute to the growing evidence base and ongoing global discourse around emerging challenges in the harm reduction sector that would take centre stage during the 24th International Harm Reduction Conference in Kuala Lumpur from 18 to 21 October 2015, jointly organised by Harm Reduction International and Malaysian AIDS Council.
The report is available online and can be downloaded from this link.
Malaysian AIDS Council
The Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) was established in 1992 to serve as an umbrella organisation to support and coordinate the efforts of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on HIV & AIDS issues in Malaysia. MAC works in close partnership with government agencies, the private sector and international organisations, to ensure a committed and effective NGO-led response to the HIV epidemic. In addition to providing nationwide coverage of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services, MAC and its Partner Organisations serve as the common voice for communities most affected by HIV & AIDS in the country. Learn more at www.mac.org.my
Media & Communications Department, Malaysian AIDS Council
Zaki Arzmi │ 016 2922 948 │ [email protected]
Meera Abi │ 016 4146 400 │ [email protected]