As I flicked through the headlines of the wonderful Kaiser Foundation HIV reports, I saw this headline. Pakistan, U.N. Agency Launch Pilot Initiative To Improve HIV Control Efforts Among Women. I rolled my eyes. Another touchy-feely let’s-empower-women-through-microcredit-so-they-can-protect-themselves initiatives that will do precisely nothing to reduce new HIV infections. Ho hum.
Then I read the story about the project, in The International News. Blow me, it’s a programme focusing on female drug users, women in prison, and women married to men who inject. Not only that, it’s actually doing the right things for them — they’re planning three mobile units offering harm reduction services to female injectors. The story doesn’t actually specify clean needles, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime which is sponsoring the initiative doesn’t like to mention clean needles, but my moles tell me the project will be running a needle exchange for these women. Kudos to everyone who made this happen. With virtually no HIV in Pakistan (pdf) except among drug injectors, among whom it is rising quickly, this is exactly what’s needed. As recently as 2003, only one injector in 200 was infected in Karachi. By last year, nearly one in three had HIV. Since around half are married, mostly to non-injectors, HIV prevention services for their wives are badly needed.
Since I’m on a love-fest about doing sensible things for injectors, hurrah for Iran, too. They’ve started making clean injecting equipment available through (very cheap) vending machines in welfare shelters for addicts in Tehran. Condoms, too. This will no doubt confirm George Bush in his belief that Iran is in need of bombing, but it does mean there will be more young men alive to fight back.