Mizoram is one of the states in India which has been hardest hit by drug-use-driven HIV. Proximity to the Myanmar border, from where heroin is often sourced in the state, is the main contributor to the prevalence of drug /injecting drug use. Majority of the HIV infections in Mizoram are among injecting drug users (IDUs); hence, preventing HIV transmission requires attention to its twin, the injecting drug use.In Mizoram, recent HIV/AIDS-IDU prevention and care approaches have tried hard to address the pressing needs, like abscess treatment, which is an entry point, and link to other interventions including care services, referral systems and harm reduction approaches to address the needs of HIV-infected drug users, and their affected co-dependents.
Considering IDUs are a particularly hard-to-reach group in Mizoram, there have been debates among key stakeholders on the need to create an enabling environment for IDUs through networks, partnerships, legal advocacy and more specifically, those which can be sustained.
"Back for Good", a peer support group formed by a group of recovering IDUs in Aizawl, Mizoram, is trying to respond to those issues by reaching out to the most at-risk IDUs. The purpose of this group is to promote recovery by using the peer-to-peer approach to strengthen ongoing interventions/ programmes for IDUs.
In the words of Mr. Rengpuia, the Chairman of "Back for Good",…"we are unique because we don't see this is as an alternative to the existing programmes for IDUs…, rather we intend to complement the existing programmes by providing our support to strengthen them". This is not Rengpuia's voice alone…, rather, this is the voice of the young IDUs in Aizawl, who are looking forward to a new dawn free from drugs.
"Back for Good" has been formed as part of the Oral Substitution Treatment (OST) programme being executed by UNODC's regional project titled "Prevention of Transmission of HIV among drug users in SAARC countries" (Project H13). This initiative is being funded by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and is an outcome of a collaborative effort of the Government of India and , the Project H13.
Currently, like the members of "Back for Good", over 100 clients in Aizawl are benefitting from the OST programme being executed by project H13. While there are significant statistics to support the positive impact of the OST programme in Aizawl, it is more important to recognize the momentum the OST programme has brought, not just among the drug users but also among their co-dependents, who usually are affected by drugs and its many manifestations like stigma, STI/HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.
The idea of forming a support group for IDUs was conceptualized at the Grace-In drop-in-centre (DIC). Mr. Lalrintluanga Ralte, the manager of Grace- In, guided this process with support from project H13 staff members. This initiative builds on the belief that prevention of drug use by regular services has not been a complete success and that there are drug users, who lack information and have not been reached sufficiently by the current approaches. Thus as a beginning, "Back for Good", is using peer support as a method to consistently engage with IDUs benefitting from project H13's OST programme and to demonstrate how comprehensive risk reduction approaches, including support groups, can be effective.