What is Harm Reduction?

Harm Reduction is an inexpensive, easily implemented combination of policies, programs, and practices aiming to reduce the negative consequences of drug consumption on the 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 ten key harm reduction interventions are:
1.    Needle and syringe programs (NSPs)
2.    Opioid substitution therapy (OST) and other drug dependence treatment
3.    HIV voluntary testing and counseling (VCT)
4.    Antiretroviral therapy (ART)
5.    Prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
6.    Condom programs 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)
10.  Naloxone

Further details on interventions:

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

- Opioid substitution treatment (OST) utilizes 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 programs for those who are unable or unwilling to stop.

- Voluntary counseling 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 centers, 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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