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E-Pao! Drug Awareness Education - Femme Fatale

Femme Fatale

Haobam Nanao *



It will not be wrong for anyone driving to the conclusion that female injecting drug user community is exposed to more magnitude in terms of risk comparing to male in Manipur. They are a deprived lot for many reasons that could be accounted for.

Itís a male dominated society and gender wise imbalan-ced as it is in many other parts of the globe. The weaker gender, one could term it, but not in terms of potential in transmitting and spreading the blood borne viruses. The risk associated along with their habits and practices is undeniably higher than the male community.

Though the population of female IDUs is very less comparing to male IDUs we cannot be simply complacent about this statistical figure when we take into account of the spread of the virus.

Literally speaking most of the female IDUs are commercial sex workers and they are a mobile population. It is an obvious option to choose this profession as a resource to serve their habit of injecting drug use. No matter whether they like it or not, it is a compulsion by nature. In addition to the risk associated with injecting drug use they are helplessly driven into the risk of a sexual regime.

Condom use is an issue as many of them have reported on this front. It is a seemingly outlook that the general public is aware about condom use and its implication.

Nevertheless it is a different scene when it comes into actual practice. So we are entangled in a very complex situation where we cannot overrule human mindset and get compromised with risk. To make the matter worst the social setting is a fragile contribution as drug use is considered as a moral issue, thus giving a fertile ground for stigma and outright discrimination.

Response is lacking seriously for this population and it tends to drive them more underground and in some ways inaccessible.

Who is responsible?...
I think it is everyoneís responsibility in their own ways.
Why donít we think over that addiction is an illness and should be treated?
It might sound a little too awkward or biased but it is a fact way answerable.
Arenít we supposed to be respecting mankind and treat the ill? God forbidden, is it so?

Responses towards drug users are eminent in the state of Manipur in some form or other perhaps, in a meager way. Name it in terms of quality or quantity. It is indeed a major landmark for the state comparing to other states in the region that the multi-faceted issues of drug use and its resultant consequences is discussed, responded and gained ground in the midst of the challenging society from various quarters.

The tireless effort of many a drug users organizations and other civil societies has been rewarding in curbing and moulding the issue and bringing it about to this juncture.

But it has to be ongoing and never ending. The manifold responses ranging from drug rehabilitation treatment to Harm Reduction has been the realm of public health response for this population. Drug substitution therapy is another feather in the cap. But why are we still worried when many things are happening? Yes, we need to worry for we lack comprehensiveness in many aspects.

In a gender sensitive society like Manipur, where the male species dominates and considering the barrier that withstand in accessing service for the female IDUs it is a must that separate programmes are institutionalized to attend the needs of this deprived population.

This does not mean that they seldom go to get access to services that are prevailing but it is very low and they never did retain and sustain it. If not for seeking health care services at times during their dire needs they stay aloof from collecting a new syringe or condoms or enrolling in drug substitution programmes etc.

The situation is complicated and pathetic. Although it has to be started from a scratch it has to be expedited before getting worsen at the cost of human lives. As a response to injecting drug use and its resultant adverse effect, no programme has been undertaken fervently by any agencies or the Government separately for the female drug users. Some of the probable reasons have been opined above but there may be many more on why this population lacks attending services.

Having learnt that the combined service provision for both male and female has not been effective we need to look forth for a change. As an effort to this disparity there should be a dialogue at relevant platforms drawing the attentions of the health authorities initiated by various agencies who are working strenuously in this field amidst an intricate social phenomenon with the due participation of the targeted population.

It still seems to be a far cry but it will never be too late giving it a go. Wonít it be a blessing to witness a full fledged drop in centre (DIC) separately for the female IDUs where syringes and condoms are being dispensed, counselling are rendered, substitution drugs are dispensed under a health care setting within an enabling, friendly environment.

A lot of resources need to be initiated for this venture but it will worth the cause and rewarding for this is yet another step in the general interest of public health.

If this turns out to be a sound undertaking then this could be a sure platform from where the likes of it could be replicated and set on for a wider community.


Haobam Nanao wrote this article for The Sangai Express. The author represents Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+). This article was webcasted on 17th March 2007.


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