Do No Harm: Health, Human Rights and People Who Use Drugs

June 2016 - Reports, Guidelines, and Tools

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Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) (April 2016).

This report gives an overview of harm reduction, an approach for reducing the negative outcomes of drug use. Harm reduction has been shown to benefit individuals, communities, and health and legal systems in a variety of ways. The document provides five policy recommendations, including:

  • Fully implementing harm reduction and HIV services, as outlined in guidance from the World Health Organization
  • Treating people who use drugs with support and care, rather than punishment
  • Integrating HIV services with other health and social protection services for people who inject drugs.

Additionally, the report provides ten operational recommendations, such as:

  • Ensuring that all those who use drugs have access to harm reduction services (including needle exchange, substitution therapy, and antiretroviral therapy) to prevent HIV infection
  • Supporting and empowering community and civil society organizations (including networks of people who use drugs) in the design and delivery of health and social protection services
  • Rebalancing investments in drug control to ensure fully funded public health services, including those for HIV infection, antiretroviral therapy, and treatment for drug dependence, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other health conditions.

The report also emphasizes that harm reduction policies deliver broader social benefits, such as lower levels of drug-related crime and reduced pressure on health care and criminal justice systems.

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