Workers on harm reduction share experiences

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, April 5:

The representatives of the organisations working to encourage harm reduction strategies among drug users have highlighted the need for sustainable programmes and continued support from the donor agencies. “There is a need to continue the harm reduction programmes which is helping in stopping the spread of various infections among the general population,” said Ram Singh Gurung from Life-saving And Life-giving Society (LALS), addressing a meeting to share experiences on harm reduction programme organised jointly by the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC) and Save the Children US, here today. Alfred Pach, harm reduction technical advisor at the Save the Children US presented his paper on ‘Harm reduction programme’.

“The service evaluation reveals that clients found the services useful because it provides them with the knowledge and equipment necessary to stop sharing and preventing HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infection and abscesses. They indicated they would find it useful if the harm reduction programme included provision of treatment for substance abuse, help with mental health problems, more frequent services and additional recreational activities,” said he. The challenges in implementing the harm reduction programmes, according to Pach, ranged from high mobility and unstable lifestyles of intravenous drug users to uncertainty of funding and duration of the programmes.

However, Dr Ram Prasad Shrestha, director of NCASC emphasised on the need for the local organisations to be self-reliant. “The organisations should work towards being self-dependant and ensuring that the programmes are more sustainable and beneficial for the target population, rather than depending on the donor agencies for funds.” He also said that it was crucial to develop modalities for data keeping to help develop future programmes and policies.

“Also, it is crucial to address the reduction of demand and supply along with harm reduction,” said he. “For that, we will need to have cross border collaboration.” Rishi Raj Ojha, speaking on the advocacy for implementing the harm reduction programme said, “For data keeping, we will need to keep track of our regular clients. But we cannot have regular clients if the programmes have to be discontinued.”