Young women who use drugs and substances are disproportionately affected by health disparities. Many female sex workers in Zimbabwe use drug, such as cannabis, cough syrups, crystal meth and some hard drugs that include heroin and crack cocaine. Sex workers who use drugs experience higher levels of harassment and abuse and are often the target for violence. Because both sex work and drug use are criminalized in Zimbabwe, female sex workers who use drugs are unlikely to report acts of violence against them. The major disadvantage of sex work and drug use is that intoxication also means SWs who use drugs are less able to protect themselves whilst working. There is a serious risk of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
CASE STUDY: In a case study conducted by AWA in 2021, 48% of women who use drugs revealed that friends had introduced them to drugs. 36% said they had been introduced to drugs by a boyfriend or intimate partner. 16% said they had tried drugs on their own. Initial initiation on drugs was said to have been triggered by a variety of emotions, situations and pressures that included humiliation, relationship conflict, abuse, school and work pressure, shame, anger and powerlessness as a response to life situations. Most of the women who participated in the study were currently using cannabis, cough syrups, crystal meth (mutoriro), prescription drugs and clinical ethanol (musombodhiya)
At AWA we conduct self help groups for women drug users and advocate for integrated drug response and harm reduction into HIV prevention and treatment so as to improve the health, rights and dignity of women who use drugs