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Cult Health Sex. 2018 Nov;20(11):1171-1184. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2017.1421708. Epub 2018 Feb 8.

'Pure' drug users, commercial sex workers and 'ordinary girls': gendered narratives of HIV risk and prevention in post-Soviet Ukraine.

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a Department of Health, Behavior and Society , Johns Hopkins School of Public Health , Baltimore , USA.
b Department of Anthropology , Indiana University , Bloomington , USA.


International best practices call for a gender-responsive approach to HIV prevention for women, including those who use drugs and those who engage in sex work. This paper draws on multiple qualitative data sources collected over five years in Ukraine to explore the notions of gender, women and family that buttress HIV-related programmes for women. Our analysis reveals that service providers often cast women as hapless victims of unfortunate family circumstances and troubled personal relationships that produce sudden poverty, or social strivers who seek access to wealth and privilege at the expense of their health. Women are portrayed as most vulnerable to HIV when they lack a male 'protector'. We argue that the programmes constituted around these stereotypes of women and their vulnerabilities reflect new forms of institutional power that deflect attention away from gendered socio-economic processes that contribute to women's HIV vulnerability, including job insecurity and unemployment, workplace discrimination, unreliable social benefits and power imbalances within their relationships. We explore how to transform HIV prevention efforts to better address the causes of women's increased vulnerability to HIV in Ukraine and in Eastern Europe more generally.


HIV; Ukraine; drug use; gender; women

[Available on 2019-11-01]

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