SDF Research with Professor Catriona Matheson Published

14 February 2022

Vulnerability, Risk and Harm for People Who Use Drugs and Are Engaged in Transactional Sex: Learning for Service Delivery has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

SDF carried out research with people who use drugs and who are engaged in selling or exchanging sex, as well as research with the staff supporting them.

The resulting paper details the information gathered and highlights key issues around drugs used and sexual health issues, related harms and consequences, and information needs. It also gives recommendations with regards to the type of training that should be delivered to services.

Authored by Professor Catriona Matheson and SDF’s Lesley Bon, Louise Bowman, Adrienne Hannah, and Katy McLeod, the paper’s objective is to enable the delivery of a gender-aware, rights-based approach by services to reduce risk to this highly stigmatised and under-served group.

Against a backdrop of high levels of drug related harms in Scotland, this research aims to inform training development to aid the upskilling of the workforce to support people who use drugs and are involved in transactional sex.

Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses Team Leader, Adrienne Hannah, said:

“People involved in transactional sex who use drugs may experience a range of challenges including stigma, exploitation and trauma which have an impact on risk taking behaviours relating to drug use and sex.

“At this time, with the current rate of drug related deaths in Scotland and the HIV outbreak centred in Glasgow, it is imperative that services are well informed of the issues for women who use drugs and who sell or exchange sex.”

Read the article here.

Professor Catriona Matheson will be discussing this research at SDF’s International Women’s Day Online Conference.

Click here for more information and to register.

SDF training is available for those involved in service delivery for this population and focusses on challenging stigma, recognising why women who use drugs are involved in transactional sex, the survival tips and harm reduction advice for those involved in transactional sex and the different exit strategies for those who show an interest in exiting.

The training looks to increase the confidence of service delivery staff to discuss transactional sex with service users and other staff, and to increase their ability to support those involved in transactional sex. The importance of providing low threshold, non-judgemental services to women involved in transactional sex – leading to improved outcomes for those women – is also discussed.

SDF has had a specific role in the sexual and reproductive health of people who use drugs since 2012 when the organisation was awarded funding through the Scottish Government’s Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework. Throughout this time, workers have focussed on delivering training on sexual and reproductive health to staff working in drug services, and training on drug issues to staff working in sexual health services.


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