AJEM Activities supported by MENAHRA

Justice and Mercy Association (AJEM), a Lebanese NGO working with inmates, launched a new harm reduction programme in 2012-2013 in collaboration with MENAHRA. The programme is divided into three stages, stage one consists of IEC sessions, VCT for inmates within several Lebanese prisons, and hygiene kit distribution. The IEC sessions consist of four subjects:

  1. Drug use
  2. Sexually transmitted diseases
  3. HIV
  4. Hepatitis B & C

Within each of these subjects, various issues were discussed including symptoms, treatment options, and centres which provide help. For example, when discussing drug use, our focus was not on convincing the participants to discontinue drug use, but to reduce harm associated with drug use as a first step towards abstinence. The same format was presented for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and Hepatitis B& C sessions. Regarding VCT, all participants within the various prisons were given the option as to whether they would like to take the test or not. Stage two involved seminars in collaboration with the health minister surrounding harm reduction strategies for stakeholders such as lawyers, judges, prison wardens and influential people within the country. Within this seminar, we covered various topics such as an introduction to MENHARA’s work regarding harm reduction, what harm reduction strategies are available, what strategies AJEM and MENHARA want to try to implement and what Substitution Treatment means and which organisations perform these services. The final stage involved seminars for the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and NGOs working within prisons. Within these seminars we highlighted the importance of harm reduction strategies within prisons. The importance of harm reduction strategies was highlighted in hope that we alongside the participants will be able to implement these strategies within prisons, or at least set the scene for their implementation. The objective of all three stages was to introduce harm reduction strategies in prisons, explain what is meant by harm reduction and what strategies are available and begin implementation. We have already seen several indications that our work has resulted in outcomes, and has given way to numerous co-operations among stakeholders, ISF and NGOs, towards the implementation of harm reduction. These indications appear when several prisoners are now concerned with the cleanliness of their materials, i.e. cleaning their syringes and other materials used during drug intake; when several inmates signed approval for VCTs and were interested in prevention, treatment, and control of illnesses such as STDs and Hepatitis. Furthermore, indications included when several ISF and NGO members started working with us to ensure that the situation within prisons concerning the reduction of risks is changed for the better. We hope that these co-operations will continue in the future and harm reduction strategies are further implemented and highlighted with the continuation of subject sessions and the working together of various parties for a better environment for prisoners and those working in proximity with prisoner.