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Out of Harm's Way

Out of Harm's Way

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In this report, the IFRC challenges policymakers, governments and donors to move beyond their own prejudices to work with stakeholders, multi-lateral organizations, civil society and those living with HIV to provide prevention, treatment, care and support to injecting drug users and their families.
In this report, the IFRC challenges policymakers, governments and donors to move beyond their own prejudices to work with stakeholders, multi-lateral organizations, civil society and those living with HIV to provide prevention, treatment, care and support to injecting drug users and their families.

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05/18/2012

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December 2010
www.ifrc.orgSaving lives, changing minds.
IFRCAdvocacyReport
Out of harm’s way
Injecting drug users and harm reduction
 
IFRC /Out of harm’s way – Injecting drug users and harm reduction
 An advocacy report / December 2010
2
Executive summary
Harm reduction refers to a range of pragmatic and evidence-basedpublic health policies and practices aimed at reducing the negativeconsequences associated with drug use and other related risk factorssuch as HIV and AIDS. These interventions exemplify human rightsin action by seeking to alleviate hazards faced by the injecting drugusers, where needed, without distinction and without judgement. TheIFRC advocates harm reduction for one very simple reason: It works.
 The United Nations estimates that approximately 15.9 million peopleliving in 148 countries regularly inject drugs. Known as injecting drugusers, these individuals are particularly vulnerable to HIV, Hepatitis Cand B infections owing to risky behaviours such as sharing syringesand needles, unsafe sex practices and a general lack of health-seekingbehaviour. Worldwide, an estimated three million injecting drug usersare now living with HIV.
Injecting drug use thus constitutes a serious public health concernthat can only be addressed through the rational application of non-moralistic public health interventions that emphasize harm reductionprogramming over punishment and censure.
In this context, the IFRC recommends that scientic evidence anda humanitarian spirit should guide the HIV response. Injecting drugusers, who routinely face harassment, stigmatization, violence andsocial exclusion, require not only care but compassion as well. Stigmaonly further marginalizes already vulnerable individuals and directly im-pedes efforts to halt the spread of HIV. Reducing marginalization alsoreduces the transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases.
In this edition
In this last edition for 2010, the
IFRC Health Advocacy Report
depicts the stark reality of what it means to be an injecting drug userand living with HIV. It examines the preven-tion, treatment, care and support needs of thismost at-risk population and the InternationalFederation of Red Cross and Red CrescentSocieties (IFRC) response to their plight.It also offers National Societies and thereader an advocacy tool that can be used foryears to come. The aim? To remind govern-ments and National Societies of the obligationto respect the human rights of injecting drugusers at risk of, or living with, HIV. Although ourfocus is global, we place a special emphasison Eastern Europe and Central Asia where thesituation is becoming increasingly dire.
Phom Peh, 2000 – Street chldre re ofte t hgh rsk of becomg future jectg drug users.UnaiS. S. noor
 
IFRC /Out of harm’s way – Injecting drug users and harm reduction
 An advocacy report / December 2010
3
 A call to action
The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) advocates on behalfof the individuals suffering most from exclusion within an already marginalized group—in- ecting drug users living with, or at risk of, HIV and AIDS. In this report, the IFRC challengespolicymakers, governments and donors to move beyond their own preudices to work withstakeholders, multi-lateral organizations, civil society and those living with HIV to provideprevention, treatment, care and support to inecting drug users and their families.
IFRC’s recommendations
1.
Wolfe D, et al., ‘Treatment and care for injecting drug users with HIV infection: a review of barriers and ways forward’. The Lancet, published online July 2010. PubMed 
2.
Beyrer Ch, et. al. ‘Time to act: a call for comprehensive responses to HIV in people who use drugs’, The Lancet, Volume 376, Issue 9740, Pages 551 - 563,14 August 2010, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/ PIIS0140-6736%2810%2960928-2/fulltext 

Governments need to engage in country-specic datacollection, research, analysis and education to moreaccurately guide policy and the implementation of pro-grammes. This would also assist them to adopt thenecessary strategic measures to adequately respondto drug-related epidemics.

 To deny injecting drug-users access to lifesaving com-prehensive services could potentially trigger a publichealth disaster. Universal access to evidence-basedpublic health interventions for drug users constitutesa fundamental right to health and is an urgent publichealth priority.
1
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Governments need to put in place supportive policiesand regulations that promote the implementation of harm reduction programmes.

Currently available strategies can largely control andmitigate the harm caused by HIV epidemics amonginjecting drug users. To be effective, harm reduc-tion programmes must be tailored to local contexts.Effective responses can:a) Decrease the social marginalization and thesubsequent vulnerability of injecting drug users;b) Increase access to health care and socialservices. These include harm reduction programmesand a comprehensive package of HIV prevention,treatment, care and support interventions.c) Promote a non-repressive approach based onhuman rights and public health principles.
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 The dangers of inaction include the continued trans-mission of HIV and other infectious diseases to newpopulations and regions, more complex HIV epidemicsin addition to a high rate of mortality and socio-eco-nomic destabilization. The IFRC strongly recommendsthat governments establish supportive policies thatrespect human rights and support the implementationof harm reduction programmes.
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Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and healthprofessionals need to advocate and take action with,and on behalf of, individuals who use drugs—bothwithin the health-care and criminal justice sectors.
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 All stakeholders need to empower and listen to thosewho use drugs: Their voices need to be heard andtheir participation—in all aspects of decision and poli-cymaking, planning and implementation—is absolutelycritical.
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Repressive laws, which include imprisonment andharassment, drive many drug users underground,away from health and social support services. Thismakes providing HIV prevention, treatment, care andsupport almost impossible and exposes the generalpopulation to more harm.

Policy change and justice system reform is an inte-gral component of harm reduction. Injecting drug useshould not be seen as a criminal act but as a majorpublic health issue. The IFRC calls for the decriminali-sation of drug users, access to due legal process andhealth services for those who use drugs both within,and outside, of all types of detention centres. Advocacy, fearless political will and commitment areabsolutely imperative if the actions called for in thisreport are to be realized. The evidence unequivocallyshows that inaction drives HIV transmission. Limitingaccess to HIV prevention and treatment programmes,and imprisoning drug users is an abuse of humanrights and a threat to public health.
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