What is Harm Reduction?

Harm Reduction is an inexpensive, easily implemented combination of policies, programmes, and practices aiming to reduce the negative consequences of drug consumption on health, social, and economic status of drug users.
Numerous studies have shown that harm reduction benefits people who use drugs, their families and the community.

The nine key harm reduction interventions are:
1.    Needle and syringe programmes (NSPs)
2.    Opioid substitution therapy (OST) and other drug dependence treatment
3.    HIV voluntary testing and counselling (VCT)
4.    Antiretroviral therapy (ART)
5.    Prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
6.    Condom programmes for IDUs and their sexual partners
7.    Targeted information, education, and communication (IEC) for IDUs and their sexual partners
8.    Vaccination, diagnosis, and treatment of viral hepatitis
9.    Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis (TB)

Further details on interventions:

- Needles and Syringes Exchange programmes (NSP) and condom distribution among others provide drug users with clean material along with voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and raising awareness, and significantly decreasing transmission of HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

- Opioid substitution treatment (OST) utilises such replacements as methadone or buprenorphine that aid drug users’ reintegration as productive members of their societies. It is an alternative to detox and prevention programmes for those who are unable or unwilling to stop.

- Voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and HIV care and treatment are employed to detect HIV in its early stages among drug users, who are a most at risk population, and refer them to the relevant care centres, where antiretroviral therapy (ART) can begin.

- Prevention and creating a conducive environment through advocacy, raising awareness through IEC material, prevention and treatment of STIs, vaccination, and such interventions.

- Accountability and participation are also important approaches to urge decision makers to adopt laws and policies that take drug users’ rights into consideration, while involving drug users in the struggle for their rights.

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