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Substance Use and Harm Reduction

Globally, approximately 3 million injection drug users are people living with HIV and there are 13 million or more people at risk of getting infected with HIV. HIV spreads at an alarming rate as soon as it enters an injection drug using community. An accelerated spread of the epidemic has been observed within these populations occurring as a result of lack of data on the population size and stigma experienced from service providers. This causes restrictions around accessing necessary services and they usually don’t obtain augmented HIV care and treatment. Research tells us that substance users want to protect themselves, their sexual partners and their communities. Therefore, the availability of harm reduction services and outreach may significantly affect the transmission of HIV. HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, other bacterial infections and death from overdose are common within the drug using population especially injection drug users.[1] Some substance users are co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C which has an even more hazardous effect to their well being.

Our Harm Reduction Program is meant to address some of these realities. Some of the activities undertaken in this program include:

  • The needle exchange and crack kit distribution provides new equipment and the removal of used equipment off the streets, reducing the spread of transmission through the blood[2]
  • Education on safer injection and safer smoking to ensure that substance users are using safely and reducing the risk of infection
  • Providing HIV point of care testing at special outreach events
  • Educating youth in high risk neighborhoods on, substance use, misuse and the criminal justice system to reduce infection, overdose and incarceration
  • Development of useful resources providing information on where individuals can access harm reduction supplies, services designed specifically for youth, HIV/AIDS support, health services, shelter services, legal services, employment services and other services provided by Black CAP to promote accessibility to essential services
  • A bi-weekly monthly drop-in for substance users, street involved, homeless, marginalized groups and  racialized persons to reduce social isolation

Our focus is to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infections within the substance using community through education and outreach. Harm reduction thrives on the building of relationships between substance user and the service provider focusing on the reality of the person and meeting them where they are at.