PRESS RELEASE-25 June 2008
Rapid Situation and Response Assessment of Drugs and HIV in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka
UNODC releases regional report
Rapid assessments are used increasingly to assist in the development of public health interventions for drug related problems. Patterns of drug use, injecting and associated consequences vary between areas and social groups within the same country and can change quickly over time. The responses to problems can also vary within the country and are influenced by social, cultural, economic, religious and political factors. Conventional research has limitations in developing responses to the rapidly emerging problems. Rapid assessments help to identify resources and opportunities for interventions; help develop socially, culturally, politically, and economically appropriate interventions; identify factors that impede or enhance the effectiveness of interventions; and develop action plans for interventions.
The primary purpose of the Rapid Situation and Response Assessment (RSRA) conducted by "Project RAS/H13: Prevention of transmission of HIV among drug users in SAARC countries", was to assess the HIV related risk behaviors, adverse health consequences and knowledge, attitudes relating to HIV/AIDS amongst drug users and their regular sexual partners in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The RSRA demonstrated that it is possible to reach out to the hidden populations of drug users as well as their regular sexual partners. The assessments yielded valuable information that can guide future interventions targeting drug users and their regular sexual partners in this region.
The RSRA was conducted over a three-month period (June-August 2005) in the four countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The RSRA in Bhutan was carried out in May 2006. Mentor agencies were identified in these five countries and were given the responsibility of identifying and coordinating with the partner Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Forty NGO partners were involved in the RSRA (India: 24; Nepal: 6; Bangladesh: 5; Sri Lanka: 4; and, Bhutan: 1). Overall, the RSRA reached 9,465 current drug users (India: 5,800; Nepal:1,330; Bangladesh: 1,090; Sri Lanka: 1,045; and Bhutan: 200) and 4,612 of their female regular sex partners (India: 3,328; Sri Lanka: 708; Nepal: 417; Bangladesh: 136; and Bhutan: 23) for the assessment. The strategy for data collection used for the report were initial mapping of drug use/injecting drug use, ethnographic mapping of certain neighbourhoods and geographical locations identified to have high prevalence of drug use and drug injecting, and development of a recruitment plan for each site.
The report recommends that future interventions should aim to:
• Prevent the transitions from licit drug use (like tobacco and alcohol) to opioid use.
• Prevent the switch to injecting by the non-injection opioid users.
• Targeted interventions for drug users should address both the injection and the sexual related risk behaviours.
• Promoting condom use among the drug users and their regular sexual partners is an important challenge and individual, couple and community level interventions are needed to deal with this vital issue.
• Comprehensive HIV prevention interventions for drug users should include community outreach for drug users and their sexual partners, interventions to increase access to sterile injection equipment (e.g., needle syringe programmes), promoting condoms with all sexual partners, primary medical care for abscess management, treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and voluntary counselling and testing (VCT).
• Drug dependence treatment, in particular, evidence based treatment like opioid substitution treatment needs to be implemented and scaled up in the region.
These are among the findings of the report titled "
Rapid Situation and Response Assessment of Drugs and HIV in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka- A regional Report ", released today (25 June) in New Delhi.
Mr. Oscar Fernandes , Convenor of the Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS and Union Minister for Labour and Employment, formally released the report (via a video message).
Mr. Rajiv Chandran , Officer-in-Charge, UNIC read out the message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, 26 June.
Ms. Ashita Mittal , Officer-in-Charge, UNODC ROSA, shared her insights on HIV prevention among drug users and the importance of an enabling environment in achieving this objective.
Dr. Denis Broun , UNAIDS Country Coordinator, underlined the importance of strengthening the provision of a comprehensive package of services for drug users and their partners.
Dr. Suresh Kumar , principal author, highlighted the salient findings of the report, the methodology used and the recommendations for future.