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Women & Harm Reduction

WHAI is working with communities across Ontario to build capacity to respond to women's harm reduction related needs.


Across Ontario, women who use drugs have identified harm reduction as an important need.

Women have reported using drugs for many different reasons. In some cases, women have identified the use of drugs to help cope with challenges related to gender-based violence, economic insecurity, and unmet emotional and physical health needs. Drug use is also identified as a risk factor for HIV among women in Ontario, making it an important area of work for WHAI.

Among women newly diagnosed with HIV in Ontario, 18% reported injection drug use compared to 11% of newly diagnosed men in 2017.

OHESI Women & HIV in Ontario Fact Sheetopens in a new window

Injecting drugs increases the likelihood of contracting HIV by 59 times.

CATIE: The Epidemiology of HIV in Canada


Harm reduction is a person-centred approach that seeks to reduce the health, social, and structural harms associated with substance use.

WHAI has been collaborating with women who use drugs and community organizations across Ontario to develop strategies and tools that enhance community capacity to do harm reduction work with women who use drugs.

Harm reduction is a commitment to supporting the dignity and respect of people who use drugs. Through this work, women who use drugs can be connected and supported in community organizations and play an important role in addressing institutional stigma and discrimination.

This work has the ability to promote the well-being and health outcomes for women living with, or facing systemic risk for HIV.

“…They know I have addiction issues so they tell me not to use the public washroom for too long.”

— Woman living with HIV, Ontario

“This woman who works there helped me out with tips about how to inject. It’s really helped me out a lot. I don’t have to rely on other people now, and also I don’t have as many scars.”

— Woman who uses drugs, Ontario


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WHAI is collaborating with women who use drugs and community partners to build capacity related to women and harm reduction.

Briefcase with plus sign and N icon

WHAI is working with women and community agencies across Ontario to ensure women who use drugs have access to important overdose prevention training and tools like naloxone.



Gendering the National Framework

The British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health (BCCEWH), Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), and the Universities of Saskatchewan and South Australia discussion guide exploring gender-based harm reduction strategies.

Toolkit, WHAI Resource

Women and Harm Reduction in Ontario: A Capacity Building Toolkit

WHAI's toolkit for strengthening the work harm reduction programs do with women who use drugs.

Fact Sheet

Women & HIV in Ontario

An overview of HIV and health outcomes driven by the social determinants of health for women in Ontario.


The Epidemiology of HIV in People Who Inject Drugs in Canada

This fact sheet provides a snapshot of the HIV epidemic among people who inject drugs in Canada.