ISLAMABAD - A small proportion of women is among the around 800 injecting drug users (IDUs) mapped in Rawalpindi during a recent Dutch-funded rapid situation assessment (RSA).

According to an interim progress report on street based outreach services for the IDUs launched in the city in February by Nai Zindagi Charity in collaboration with Mainline Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Netherlands, these women are also part of a wider sexual network.

The report titled “bridging the gaps: health and rights for key populations” says as many as 476 IDUs had been registered with the programme by the end of April, representing 60-70 per cent of the total population of persons who inject drugs (PWIDs) mapped during the rapid assessment.

Under the programme, the IDUs are provided new syringes in exchange with the used ones to minimise the danger of spread of HIV/ AIDS among drug users in Rawalpindi. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among IDUs had been recorded at an all time high of 38.9 per cent in the RSA.

The syringe exchange data shows a regular increase from approximately 125 PWIDs accessing needle syringe exchange programme (NSEP) daily to 350 towards the end of April. Of the registered clients 114 (23 per cent) were referred for drug treatment services in the month of March and April 2012. “This is an extremely efficient response to the drug treatment needs expressed by almost 100 per cent of the RSA participants. Offering this service also builds confidence of the clients and communities in the services being offered,” the report says.

In addition to clean syringes, clients have also been provided abscess and wound treatment, basic medical care, contraceptives etc. Of the 114 clients referred for drug treatment 18 (16 percent) have been enrolled in the enterprise development section of the services offering socio economic rehabilitation by imparting training to help create a skilled labour force out of the IDUs.

108 of the 114 admitted for drug treatment consented for voluntary confidential counselling and testing (VCCT), of which 34 (31 percent) were HIV positive. Wives of five IDUs were also provided VCCT of which one was HIV positive. VCCT service is available at the drug treatment facility established in Rawalpindi under the programme.

According to the report, the Nai Zindagi Charity (NZC) was in the process of establishing a consortium of harm reduction organisations (CHRO). CHRO will be the first registered body representing service delivery organisations, with the primary aim to advocate for rights based services at national level.