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HIV AND AIDS – “Harm reduction must be a central
theme, it must not be an afterthought.
YOUNG PEOPLE The world has to awaken”1.
Stephen Lewis, XVI International AIDS Conference


drug use is still lacking. Ignoring this like Needle and Syringe Exchange
issue contributes to the challenge of Programs and safe injection sites

decreasing and controlling the rise of do not lead to or increase drug use
the AIDS epidemic. Injection drug use in communities5. These services are


can lead to the exponential growth of often the first place where people
HIV transmission in a community. It who use drugs can come into contact


is estimated that there are approxi- with other health services such as
mately 13.2 million people who use primary health care and treatment.

injecting drugs in over 155 countries Harm reduction is an essential ap-
worldwide2. Approximately 78% of proach to addressing the issue of HIV

people who use injecting drugs live in as the epidemic evolves and develops
transitional and developing countries3, Harm reduction is a comprehensive in new ways. Harm reduction is also
making it a significant barrier in public health and human rights grounded in human rights: ensuring
HIV transmission has traditionally accessing adequate HIV prevention, approach that aims to reduce the that everyone’s right to health, educa-
been associated with unsafe sexual treatment, care and support services. social, health and economic harms tion and information is met.
intercourse. Nonetheless, injecting associated with substance use. It
drug use is one of the fastest and 70% of the world’s reported HIV cases is based on providing care, support Harm reduction services are key to
most common HIV transmission are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. and resources in a non-judgmental addressing HIV amongst people who
routes in some regions of the world. However, injection driven transmis- environment, and avoiding further use injecting drugs, but they are not
Through the lack of HIV prevention sion hubs have been identified in stigmatisation of people who use available in many communities.
services targeting people who use China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, drugs. It promotes the idea of safer
injecting drugs, and lack of resources Argentina, Russia and Ukraine, use and seeks to provide services
to reduce risk such as the sharing of among other countries4. In addition, such as syringe exchanges, safe
contaminated needles and syringes, estimates from the UN Secretary injection sites, substitution treat-
a significant number of people, General state that 92% of people who ment programs and party/dance safe
including youth, are contracting HIV inject drugs in low and middle-income programs, to name a few.
every day. countries have no access to HIV
prevention services and less than 5% Needle and Syringe Exchange
While the need for comprehensive have access to HIV prevention, treat- Programs have significantly con-
HIV programs and policies in order ment, care and support. Until this gap tributed to the reduction of HIV
to halt the spread of HIV has been is addressed, the goal of universal transmission among people who use
widely recognised, the inclusion access by 2010 will not be achieved. drugs. Contrary to what some may
of information related to injecting believe, research shows that services

Johal, Am.” International AIDS Activist Stephen Lewis”. October 2007. www.worldpress.org
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Drug Report 2007
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. World Drug Report 2005
C Aceijas, GV Stimson, M Hickman, T Rhodes. Global Overview of Injection Drug Use and HIV Infec-
tion among injecting Drug Users.AIDS, 2004.
World Health Organisation. Advocacy guide: HIV/AIDS prevention among injecting users: workshop
manual / World Health Organization, UNAIDS.2004
Access to evidence based treat- 2/2
ment, honest drug education and

youth specific programs are essential
components to addressing HIV related

issues. Until we acknowledge and
address the reality of drug use, young 6
World Health Organisation.
“The Rapid Assessment and Response on

people who use injecting drugs will Psychoactive Substance Use and Sexual Risk
continue to be at risk and ultimately Behavior”. 2002
contract HIV. Young people must be
A significant number of people who involved in the design, implementa-
use injecting drugs worldwide are tion and evaluation of programs and
between 15 and 30 years of age. A policies that address this issue, in
UNAIDS study shows that individu- order to ensure that they better reflect
als begin injecting in countries like their realities and needs.
Russia and the Ukraine when they are
as young as 12 years old and account In addition, access barriers to initia-
for 20% of the populations who use tives such as Needle and Syringe
injecting drugs in these countries. Exchange Programs, HIV prevention,
Young people who inject drugs face and sexual health programs, must
an even greater risk of contracting be recognised and removed. Young
HIV as they are often more unfamiliar people face particular barriers in
with using sterile equipment and feel accessing these programs due to
already stigmatised by authorities and age restrictions or the inaccessibility
institutions like health care services. of adult services. In practice, many
young injecting drug users are blocked
As a result of illegality of their drug from accessing these services, leaving
use and age restrictions imposed them at high risk of HIV. In order to
by many health and harm reduction avoid this, it is essential to develop
services, young people feel that by youth friendly, safe and accessible HIV
accessing services they put them- prevention harm reduction services.
selves at a further risk. Studies show Though harm reduction is an evidence
that young injecting drug users have based strategy for HIV prevention,
higher levels of sharing contaminated it is only through the expansion and
needles due to their lack of access integration of harm reduction into
to youth friendly health services and existing youth programs such as youth
adequate knowledge about HIV and drop in centers and youth outreach
safer use. They are also more likely to that the most at risk youth will be
be injected by adults, creating unsafe provided with the adequate resources
and possibly predatory relationships they need.
of dependence.

WHAT CAN I Integrate harm reduction and net- ing bodies. Young people’s specific Keep Yourself and Your Partner
works of injecting drug users into needs must be addressed! Safe

HIV work
Get Involved and Talk to Youth While it is extremely important to
While there are many organisations and practice safe drug use, it is as equally
Support Harm Reduction Net- networks around the world working to It is very important to be engaged important for people who use inject-
works and Youth-Specific address the HIV epidemic, in order to with harm reduction and HIV issues. ing drugs to practice safe sex. Accord-
Programs be able to do so fully, it is necessary Keep active by joining campaigns ing to the World Health Organisation,
to integrate harm reduction strategies and lobbying leaders to adopt a harm condom use amongst people who use
It is essential that harm reduction into this work. This can be done by reduction approach in your community. injecting drugs is generally low, with
networks and programs receive getting in touch with harm reduction and With almost 40% of all new infections most studies suggesting that at least
reliable and sustainable funding and networks of injecting drug users, and occurring amongst young people a third of injecting drug users never
support to continue and expand the working together. Harm Reduction must between the ages of 15 and 30, it is use condoms6.
work they do. Connect with local, be included as a comprehensive range of essential to address youth issues and By engaging in safer use and sexual
regional and international networks services, including prevention, outreach, find ways to engage young people in health practices, the individual can
such as Youth RISE (www.youthrise. treatment, care and support. this dialogue. It is also crucial that be aware of the risks, thus increasing
org), the International Harm Reduction young people are involved in program- their chances of using a condom and
Association (www.ihra.net), Global Advocate and Lobby Your Leaders to ming and policymaking in order to decreasing their chances of contract-
Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (www. Support Harm Reduction Programs create effective drug and health ing an STI or HIV. Women are at a
youthaidscoalition.org), or visit in Your Country and Abroad strategies and approaches. particular risk of contracting HIV, as
http://www.youthrise.org/pages. many women around the world are
html?page=resources to see a listing Despite evidence demonstrating Practice Safe Drug Use partnered with current or former
of regional harm reduction networks. the effectiveness of harm reduction people who use injecting drugs.
programmes, they continue to face We encourage you to take the neces-
resistance with government officials sary measures to keep yourself safe.
Design: horspistes.co.uk

worldwide. Greater support is needed If you are using injecting drugs, use
and must be reflected in national poli- safely. To find out more about safe
cies and amongst international govern- use, please visit