International Harm Reduction Day is observed every year on May 7th, to raise
awareness about the importance of harm reduction as an approach to promote
evidence-based drug policies based on public health and human rights. Harm
reduction focuses on reducing the negative consequences of drug use, without
necessarily requiring abstinence from drug use and lessens health risks associated
with substance use and related behaviors that increase the risks of HIV infections.
People who use drugs are at a higher risk of contracting new HIV infections and
other blood-borne infections, particularly if they share injection equipment. In
Rwanda, there is a growing concern about the increasing number of new HIV
infections among people who inject drugs.
To protect people who use drugs from new HIV infections, there are several harm
reduction measures that can be implemented. These include:
Opioid substitution therapy: Providing people who use opioids with a
substitute medication, such as methadone or buprenorphine, can help
reduce drug use and associated harms.
HIV testing and treatment: Ensuring that people who use drugs are aware
of their HIV status and receive appropriate treatment to help prevent the
spread of HIV.
Outreach and education: Reaching out to people who use drugs and
providing them with information about safer drug use practices, such as
using clean equipment, to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
Stigma reduction: Addressing the stigma associated with drug use to create
an environment where people who use drugs feel more comfortable
seeking out harm reduction services.
It is important to note that harm reduction approaches are not just beneficial for
people who use drugs, but for the wider community as well. By reducing the
spread of HIV among people who use drugs, we can also reduce the overall
incidence of HIV in the community.
Harm Reduction Day provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of harm
reduction approaches in protecting people who use drugs from new HIV
infections as it enables people who use drugs to make safer choices without
facing stigma or discrimination hence improve their well-being. Rwanda NGOs
Forum remains committed to supporting innovative programs and solutions that
prioritize the dignity and human rights of people who use drugs in Rwanda.
If we are to End AIDS by 2030, we can’t leave anyone behind. And that includes
people who use drugs.