METHODS: Thirty-eight women who use drugs were interviewed using a semi-structured topic guide in Kelantan, Penang, Johor, Kuala Lumpur, and Selangor. Locations were chosen purposively. Nineteen women were interviewed individually and the remaining 19 were in focus group discussions (FGDs). All interviews were transcribed verbatim, translated to English, and analyzed with NVivo.
RESULTS: Median age of respondents was 35.5 years old, 89.5% ethnic Malays, majority having married below the age of 20, and were of low socioeconomic backgrounds. Youngest age of initiation into drug use was 9 years old. Most reported is inhalation of amphetamine-type substances. Seven reported ever injecting. Three themes emerged: (a) repeating patterns of fluid family structures and instability; (b) "pain" and "difficulty" as features of home life; and (c) seeking marriage as a source of stabilization and practices of power within those marriages. Respondents often came from very fluid family environments and married to find stability, only to be drawn into a similar cycle. None of the women who had been separated from their children either institutionally, by family members, or by third parties, had accessed legal recourse for the loss of their parental rights.
CONCLUSION: Unstable familial relationships or environments contributed to earlier initiation of drug use which raised questions about support services for WWUD and children who use drugs. Respondents were drawn into unstable and/or abusive relationships, perpetuating social inequalities that marked their own familial environments during childhood. These findings support the need for additional services to support the unique needs of WWUD, including domestic violence services, financial and life skills, parental rights assistance, and empowerment programs.
METHODS: In a nationally representative cross-sectional study, soon-to-be released prisoners in Kyrgyzstan (N=368) and Azerbaijan (N=510) completed standardized health assessment surveys. After identifying correlated variables through bivariate testing, we built multi-group path models with pre-incarceration official and unofficial detention as exogenous variables and pre-incarceration composite HIV risk as an endogenous variable, controlling for potential confounders and estimating indirect effects.
RESULTS: Overall, 463 (51%) prisoners reported at least one detention in the year before incarceration with an average of 1.3 detentions in that period. Unofficial detentions (13%) were less common than official detentions (41%). Optimal model fit was achieved (X (2)=5.83, p=0.44; Goodness of Fit Index (GFI) GFI=0.99; Comparative Fit Index (CFI) CFI=1.00; Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) RMSEA=0.00; PCLOSE=0.98) when unofficial detention had an indirect effect on HIV risk, mediated by drug addiction severity, with more detentions associated with higher addiction severity, which in turn correlated with increased HIV risk. The final model explained 35% of the variance in the outcome. The effect was maintained for both countries, but stronger for Kyrgyzstan. The model also holds for Kyrgyzstan using unique data on within-prison drug injection as the outcome, which was frequent in prisoners there.
CONCLUSIONS: Detention by police is a strong correlate of addiction severity, which mediates its effect on HIV risk behaviour. This pattern suggests that police may target drug users and that such harassment may result in an increase in HIV risk-taking behaviours, primarily because of the continued drug use within prisons. These findings highlight the important negative role that police play in the HIV epidemic response and point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce police harassment, in parallel with interventions to reduce HIV transmission within and outside of prison.