Often neglected, women who inject drugs are a highly marginalised and vulnerable population in need of a comprehensive response to meet their health and social needs. With support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Alliance India partnered with Social Awareness Social Organisation to mitigate the impact of drug use and HIV on these women through the Chanura Kol project – named with the Manipuri words for ‘garden of women.’ Through a holistic, community-based model, Chanura Kol met immediate health, protection and psychosocial needs of women who inject drugs.
In addition the project enhanced access to harm reduction services, supported economic rehabilitation and social integration, and reduced stigma and discrimination related to both injecting drug use and HIV.
Drop-in centres and a short-stay home were established to provide harm reduction services, HIV prevention interventions, care & support programming, and counselling. Support groups were also formed in each district, providing outreach and referrals to sexual & reproductive health (SRH), antiretroviral therapy (ART), ICTC, general health and other social services. Referrals were also provided for drug treatment and oral substitution therapy (OST). Once women completed treatment or stabilised on OST, they could access the short-stay home for six months; the home provided shelter, food, health services, psychosocial and family reintegration support, and vocational training.
Chanura Kol services were complemented by efforts to create an enabling environment through advocacy with relevant decision makers, local leaders, and community members to address stigma and discrimination and barriers to service access faced by women who inject drugs.