Harm Reduction in the New Environment: Lessons of the Past, Challenges of the Present, Priorities for the Future

Looking back at the development of harm reduction programs in the CEECA region and comparing it to the current situation it is clear that we are living in the new environment now.

11 August 2017

Looking back at the development of harm reduction programs in the countries of Central, Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) and comparing it to the current situation in the region one can clearly see that we are now living in the new environment. What do we mean by "the new environment" and how does it define our future? The new environment means the new prospects, new challenges and new solutions that harm reduction programs and experts now face.

It has become more evident than ever that the repressive drug policy represents a serious barrier preventing the community of people who use drugs (PUD) from getting medical and social care and improving their wellbeing. The bulk of evidence to support the idea of a drug policy based on the prinicples of human rights and public health care has been mounting. Self-mobilization of PUD has become a driving force for harm reduction programs at community, national and international levels. However, quite a number of issues crucial for harm reduction in the CEECA region remains unresolved. The level of stigmatization and criminalization of PUD stays high, the national governments in the region are reluctant to view harm reduction as an integral part of their national policy and the transition from external to national funding is still too slow.

Harm reduction in the new environment should be flexible as well as sustainable - this idea presented as the most effective way to implement harm reduction programs has been a leitmotif of the Report made on the findings of the Regional CEECA conference "Harm Reduction in the New Environment", which was held on April 4 - 7, 2017 in Vilnius by the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN). The summary of the discussions, conclusions and recommendations made by the conference participants is meant to help the national agencies, civil society, international donors and harm reduction experts in the region understand the basic aspects they should be tackling together in the nearest future.

The regional conference "Harm Reduction in the New Environment" was organized by the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network in the framework of the Regional Program "Harm Reduction Works – Fund It!" funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.