Evidence suggests SMW experience disproportionate sexual health morbidity and low uptake of interventions, including contraception and cervical screening. Yet, there has been little investigation of sexual health service access issues for this population.
Twenty women with problem drug use in Hastings participated in a one-to-one interview with a researcher to explore experiences and beliefs surrounding access to a range of sexual health service interventions. Transcripts were open-coded, and themes were elicited and organized concerning barriers to access.
Drug-use lifestyles, trauma, and low self-worth framed the lives of SMW and hindered sexual health service access through depleted practical and emotional resources to enable attendance; the high perceived emotional cost of discussing sexual histories and coping with tests and unfavorable results; and minimization of risk and perceived incompatibility between drug use and sexual well-being.
The study concluded that a range of practical, social, and emotional barriers to sexual health service access exist for this population, presenting a context from within which use of services may come at considerable personal cost to SMW. Interventions addressing anticipated stigma and emotional, hygiene, and fiscal concerns are warranted for this population.