Why harm reduction must focus on the public health challenge.
BECOMING IMMERSED in an international harm reduction conference is quite an intense experience, but
that’s what we did last month at IHRA’s event in Barcelona. It was the first time DDN had been to this annual
event, and the first time we had been invited to produce daily magazines covering it. We decided to make the
most of the opportunity by sharing some of the insights to harm reduction revealed by delegates from different
countries, in this issue of the magazine.
Harm reduction so often becomes one half of an over-familiar polarised debate in the UK, but looking at the
reasoning behind basic measures to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C is a stark reminder of the public
health challenge at the heart of organisations such as IHRA. It was also an eye-opener to the different barriers to
accessing treatment services posed by different cultures. Harm reduction would be a different (and very remote)
concept to the drug using women in Ukraine (page 15), compared to the new International Sex Worker Harm
Reduction Caucus that brought their stand and their banners to the conference to demonstrate that being loud
and proud is essential to fighting the disease and discrimination that can so dangerously accompany stigma.
We’ve a lively letters page this fortnight (page 6), thanks to last issue’s cover story ‘Different roads’. It’s divided
our readers and provoked some strong comments on treatment philosophy which I hope will continue. The
varied backgrounds and experiences of our correspondents are enriching the debate.
There’s also another fan for Bri, whom I’d like to thank for sharing his story (page 19). We got to know Bri at
our service user involvement conference in January; he decided he would write his story in the hope of inspiring
at least somebody else to keep going when the going gets tough. It’s not easy to share your lowest moments,
but judging by some of the feedback he’s had, it’s been worth the painful memories.