In an effort to increase uptake of essential harm reduction services in Manipur, India, the Chanura Kol project did more than expand its service menu to reach women who inject drugs.
Early on, the Chanura Kol team realised that many women who inject drugs neither have the time nor inclination to stop by the project’s drop-in centre (DIC) in Imphal for counselling services or to meet a doctor. To encourage these women to avail these services, team members initiated special days when free coffee and the popular dish of chow mein noodles were served to visitors.
Soon, Chanura Kol’s ‘Chow Mein & Coffee Days’ gained popularity among community members, and the DIC saw more and more women stopping by and speaking with the doctor and counsellor on duty.
The women who visit are offered a range of services in addition to counselling: needle or syringe exchanges, free condoms, and health checks-up, including medicine for basic health conditions. Additionally, linkages to reproductive health and HIV-related care and clinic-based detoxification therapy are available along with overdose prevention education and Naloxone for overdose-related emergencies.
By offering the hospitality of a simple meal, the DIC has become a more welcoming and comfortable place for the women who use drugs that Chanura Kol is trying to reach. Many of them now refer to the DIC as a second home where they cannot only access health and harm reduction services but also build supportive connections with their peers.
India HIV/AIDS Alliance in partnership with SASO, implements the Chanura Kol project in Manipur. Funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Chanura Kol was initiated in 2010 and serves to expand interventions to reduce drug relapse among female injecting drug users. Based on a holistic and sustainable approach, Chanura Kol aims to address the root causes of vulnerability and the primary causes of relapse post-detoxification for women who inject drugs in India’s north-eastern state of Manipur, many of whom are also sex workers. Chanura Kol provides these women with long-term shelter, creates opportunities for income generation outside of sex work, and encourages the rebuilding of family relationships.