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Growing Pains: a first look at drug use in a post-conflict country

Growing Pains: a first look at drug use in a post-conflict country

In February 2013, Fundasaun Timor Hari’i (FTH) commissioned a Rapid Assessment and Response (RAR) among the People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) in Dili and Bobonaro Districts. Timor-Leste is still considered to have a low-level epidemic, with an estimated national HIV prevalence of approximately 0.1845%, which is non-generalized. Most HIV infections would appear to have been acquired through heterosexual contact, with other routes of transmission likely to occur less often. The RAR aimed at assessing the nature and extent of injecting drug use, types of drugs used, sexual practices and demographic characteristics of drug users.

Research methods included: • Stakeholder meetings, discussions with organisations working in the field • Literature review  • Key informant interviews with drug users • Drug user questionnaires • Focus group discussions
Social observation results: • 61% of drug users interviewed were aged 18-26 years old with over 45% of all interviewees having begun using drugs before the age of 19. • 43% of interviewees had used drugs intravenously within the last 3 months. • Most common illicit drugs used were methamphetamine, heroin, cannabis and MDMA. • 61% of PWID’s reported sharing needles, with 32% reporting they share all the time. • Three quarters of those men interviewed had sex with a sex worker and 68% of all interviewees had sex with someone who was not their regular sexual partner.  • 84% of those individuals interviewed had never been tested for HIV although 36% believed they were at high risk of infection.
The next step for FTH is to develop a HIV prevention program for PWID based on harm reduction principles. This program will be multi-layered, including political advocacy, further research and a peer education program and condom distribution. FTH will continue to work closely with the MoH to advocate for drug services as well as developing organisational referral pathways to other services available.

Areas of Interest / Categories: Australian Society for HIV 2014, Drug Use, HIV

Australian Society for HIV 2014

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