Women who inject drugs: barriers to their access of Needle Exchange services, and gendered experiences
This thesis examines the gendered experiences of women who inject drugs, and barriers they face when accessing needle exchange services. Globally, studies suggest women access needle exchange services less than men. In New Zealand, the evidence suggests a similar situation. From the little that is known about women’s experiences in this context, studies are often quantitative, medically-based, or lack the voices of women who inject. This thesis aims to understand the gendered factors affecting the experiences of women who inject drugs. This study is a feminist, qualitative study, and employed semi-structured interviews as the data collection method. Five key participants who had injected drugs and four key informants who work with people who inject drugs were interviewed. The data from the interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. This study found that stigma presented as an overwhelming, pervasive barrier to the participants, not only in their access to needle exchange services, but also as a harm in other facets of their lives. Additionally, other barriers such as location also affected their access. The data confirms the significance of gender in their experiences and how, within a drugs context, gendered issues mirror wider society. The findings provide a platform for further research in this field and contribute to the academic understanding of a marginalised and stereotyped population. They also support the implementation of women-sensitive initiatives within needle exchange services.