Featured story: A step forward for harm reduction advocacy in India
This week, we bring you positive news from India, where government measures to respond to the pandemic have enabled take-home OST
(methadone and buprenorphine) for the first time, including at a women-centric harm reduction site at the Kapurthala Civil Hospital, Punjab. According to Kunal Kishore of Alliance India:
“The take-home system was supposed to be approved over a year ago as part of the regular harm reduction service delivery system of the National AIDS Programme, so the proposal was already on the table even before the COVID-19 crisis hit. The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with concerns of withdrawals and overdose among the community, led to the fast-tracking of the take-home dose decision. Now, state-level forums of people who use drugs are working with organisations like Alliance India to allow this take-home system to continue after the pandemic.”
However, the lockdown has brought serious challenges to community engagement and outreach. As communicated through IDPC’s COVID-19 survey
, Alliance India’s Harm Reduction team have responded to this challenge by organising online meetings and forums to accommodate dialogue among and with people who use drugs, to facilitate consultations and counselling, as well as to identify and cater to the basic needs of people residing in more remote areas.
Needle and syringe programme at a women-centric harm reduction site at the Kapurthala Civil Hospital, Punjab (Photo credit Alliance India)
Community-led advocacy, outreach work, and harm reduction service provision also continue in India’s urban areas, with particular attention given to homeless and street-based communities whose living situations and underlying health conditions make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
, in collaboration with various community organisations, Tamil Nadu’s Drug Users Forum has linked “over 30 street-based homeless community members to OST services” and found innovative ways to help street-based people who use drugs to find shelter and access toilets and clean water.
Harm reduction and other community organisations in Lucknow have also carried out important efforts to ensure the availability of lifesaving medications and services for people who use drugs, as well as for people living with HIV, viral hepatitis, and/or TB. Jayanta Kumar Singh, a long-time advocate for the human rights of people who use drugs, shares more inspiring examples in this blog post