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Fiocruz, UNAIDS and Latin American leaderships debate HIV prevention and use of drugs by women


Fiocruz News Agency (AFN)


To achieve more effective and equitable results in terms of drug policy, it must be seen from a perspective of gender and of region. Once we look at these women, we must still understand who they are, in their diversity. This was one of the points discussed at the Regional Meeting of Combined HIV Prevention and healthcare lines for women who use drugs, which took place last Monday and Tuesday (September 26 and 27) at the Fernandes Figueira Institute (IFF/Fiocruz). On the first day, representatives of the Foundation, of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Brazil, of the United Nations Joint HIV/AIDS Program (Unaids), of the Brazilian Platform of Drug Policies (PBPD) and of social movements of Latin America exchanged experiences and thought of new ways to work.
At the opening panel, participants highlighted points of the world drug report of 2022 by UNODC, which shows problems such as difficult access to health services and social protection by these women, higher risk of gender violence and of incarceration.

“We must acknowledge the significant demands that are born out of the relation between women and drugs. Identifying barriers is the first step to improve equity in access to services and the guarantee of rights”, stated the UNODC representative in Brazil, Elena Abbati. “Women should be placed in the center of the discussion. We must be in line with the community in order to design actions that are adapted to each context”.

The Health Promotion Coordinator of the Vice-Presidency of Environment, Care and Health promotion of Fiocruz, Adriana Castro, mentioned the importance of thinking about women’s health from a less “prescriptive” perspective, more guided by citizenship and guarantee of rights. “This discussion makes a lot of sense for Fiocruz and for the IFF. It’s very important that we can re-orient public policies in the SUS and in social service. If we begin to discuss autonomy, quality of life and citizenship, we place ourselves in a more powerful manner to work in the territory and with social movements”, stated Castro, raising the point of how the production of knowledge can converse with experience in the territory and people’s realities.

In this sense, Patricia Canto, Acting Vice-President of Environment, Care and Health Promotion for Fiocruz, Patricia Canto, presented the work and actions of Fiocruz to the public, highlighting how women are received and served at the Foundation. “We’re an open institution and we’re willing to participate in this fight, which is the fight of all of us”. Representing Fiocruz, the executive coordinator of the Presidency Institutional Program on Drugs, Francisco Netto, and the Director’s Assistant of IFF/Fiocruz, Mariana Setubal, also participated in the event.

Protagonism of community movements

As early as during the opening of the event, participants highlighted the protagonism of community movements and organizations, which, according to the panel, proved themselves to be resolutive, resilient, and innovative when it comes to solving challenges and, in particular, during the pandemic.

Claudia Velasquez, representative of the Unaids Office in Brazil, mentioned recent examples of progress, such as the new Political Statement on HIV and AIDS, and emphasized how data from the 2022 Unaids Global AIDS Report show an urgent need of actions that focus on these women. “We must understand how inequalities, racism and lack of social protection affect women's health and access to rights and health services”, she stated.

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