CAHR partners at International Harm Reduction Conference 2013 in Lithuania

An important harm reduction event took place on 9 -12 June in Vilnius (Lithuania) which gathered harm reduction activists from all over the world. Attending International Harm Reduction Conference in Vilnius became a wonderful opportunity for International HIV/AIDS Alliance and its country partners to present Community Action on Harm Reduction (CAHR) project to a wide audience.

On June 9, International HIV/AIDS Alliance organised a meeting for CAHR partner organisations. The aim of this meeting was to bring together people involved in CAHR project attending the Conference for a discussion of key programme areas. During the meeting, facilitated by Susie Mclean (International HIV/AIDS Alliance), participants discussed the project’s progress and those spheres that require a special attention. Tetiana Deshko (International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine) gave a brief overall update of CAHR progress providing information about the current implementation status, the range of services provided in the countries, capacity building and policy activities.

Anke van Dam (AFEW) shared information on technical support provided by AFEW to organisations from Malaysia and Indonesia on HIV prevention programmes in prisons, pre-release programme for prisoners run by Rumah Cemara (Indonesia) and Malaysian AIDS Council (Malaysia) and their partner organisations. Though clean needles and syringes and condoms are not available for prisoners in these countries, a pre-release programme could be a useful platform for building an awareness of prisons’ authorities on harm reduction and starting the discussion on piloting needle exchange and condoms distribution in prisons.

Olga Golichenko (International HIV/AIDS Alliance) presented a new project AIDS Asia on Harm Reduction improving the knowledge, building support, increasing the evidence for harm reduction among key policy makers in six countries – China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.  AIDS Asia and CAHR are closely linked to each other and can increase the impact of the programmes in the countries implementing these projects.

Jamie Bridge (IDPC) informed about ‘Support. Don’t Punish’ campaign and called to participate in the campaign explaining how it can be done.

Pavlo Smyrnov (International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine) presented methodology of peer driven intervention (PDI) and informed about the steps made to introduce PDI projects in China and Malaysia. This intervention can help to reach the most hard-to-reach sub-groups of people who use drugs and have a high research potential collecting data from people reaching harm reduction services for the first time.

Francis Joseph (India HIV/AIDS Alliance) made a presentation on improving access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services for people who use drugs and their family members in India. India HIV/AIDS Alliance developed a training module for outreach workers on access to SRHR services for people who use drugs which was presented during the session.

Slava Kushakov (International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine) facilitated a session on CAHR research component. Representatives of partner organisations from Kenya, Malaysia, India and Indonesia made a short overview of operational studies implementing as a part of CAHR project in 2013. Results of these studies will be used to improve the programmes in the countries or to pilot new initiatives.

Pre-Conference meeting was followed by informal communication between participants who identified the topics for further discussion during conference days.

One of the Conference sessions on June 11 was devoted to presentations of programmes and studies implementing as a part of CAHR project. The session Multi-country HIV and harm reduction programming was chaired by Lord Norman Fowler.

Olga Varetska (International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine) presented results of a baseline assessment measuring outcome indicators, identified needs of people who inject drugs, and determined the association between existing prevention services and well-being and HIV risk behaviour of people who inject drugs. .The presentation Relationship between cultural norms, policy barriers to accessing harm reduction services, HIV-related behaviour and quality of life of injecting drug users (IDUs): results of baseline study in Kenya, China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia featured the study methodology, key results and programme recommendations.

Anton Mulyana Djajaprawira (Rumah Cemara) presented Community based harm reduction interventions by community based organisations (CBOs) in three provinces in Indonesia. In collaboration with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, since 2011, CAHR project has been designed to support CBOs in three provinces in Indonesia in order to fill the gap from other harm reduction interventions, instead of overlapping similar actions. With the variety of interventions, the needs of people who use drugs are more accommodated and the CBOs have the ability to adapt the intervention based on the circumstances on the field.

Daniel Tinga Kalafa (representative of Kenya Network of People Who Use Drugs (KENPUD)) informed about expanding community action on harm reduction. KENPUD has been established so that people who use drugs are able to reach and engage their peers. They work to promote access to quality harm reduction and HIV prevention programmes and advocate with government, donors and services to ensure that the health and rights of PWUDs are upheld.

Gloria Lai (IDPC) presented how innovative policy advocacy has supported the scale-up of service delivery. The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) is a technical partner responsible for policy engagement in CAHR project. One key innovation of the project has been ensuring specific resources for activities to influence national policy environments.  Advocacy initiatives have been tailored to the cultural and political contexts in each target country, and a global campaign has been created to support advocacy efforts. IDPC has also worked to build civil society capacity for strategic drug policy advocacy.

Malini Sivapragasam (Malaysian AIDS Council) reflected on her experience “This is my first time attending a harm reduction conference; hence every single activity was useful to enhance my knowledge. It was a good platform to learn about harm reduction and the conference mostly focused on best practices which would be helpful to scale up the harm reduction program in Malaysia. Among ideas that I am taking back to Malaysia there are approaches to reach out to females who use injecting drugs and assess mental health of injecting drug users which could contribute to adherence of ART medication and also methadone treatment as Malaysia currently in the process of scaling up the methadone treatment and move towards treatment as prevention.”