Presenting author: Thazin Than Naing
Presenting author biography:
Thazin Thain Naing is Deputy Director of Best Shelter-Myanmar. Previously, Thazin worked as Program Coordinator (Counseling) at AHRN-Asian Harm Reduction Network, Counseling Supervisor at MSF-Holland. She has 19-years’ experience of working in HIV/AIDS, drug related harm reduction field. She is passionate about importance of psycho-social interventions when working with individuals.
“For Women, by Women” - Women Leading Female Friendly Services is Key to a Successful Response!
Thazin Than Naing, Thinzar Tun, Aung Yu Naing, Khine Wut Yee Kyaw
“It is all about women, there are things we dare not say in front of a man, and usually women’s issues are private, we need a place we can find refuge and shelter” -voice from Kachin.
In Myanmar, women who use drugs (WUD) have critically limited access to harm reduction and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services. In these male-dominated settings, women are often uncomfortable to mix with male clients also at the Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN) clinics and drop-in-centers (DiC) where they may be teased or taunted by male clients.
AHRN has set up safe ‘home-like’ spaces in DiCs, for WUD and female partners of people who use drugs (at-risk women) where they can gather, access peer support and harm reduction services. Female outreach workers, peers and health staff have been recruited to improve harm reduction services specifically for women, offering outreach, linkage to SRHR, HIV prevention and treatment services. Female peer educators promote recreational activities, women and children-friendly spaces, income generating activities, and medical interventions.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and political crisis, the number of WUD reached with prevention services at brothels and shooting galleries increased from 1038 (over 12 months 2021) to 1036 (first 6-months, 2022) i.e., near doubling. Involvement of trained local female peers and outreach workers in SRHR services was key for women to communicate openly about their lives, without fear of being judged or worry of being humiliated. Accompanied referrals by peer buddies and outreach workers motivated WUD to return. HIV testing more than doubled from 473 (over 12 months 2021) to 640 (first 6-months, 2022).
“I keep on coming back because of the healthcare I got from them, I give so little time for them, but I get so much back”. Voice of WUD from Kachin.