International conference "Harm Reduction Programmes in Europe: practice, problems and perspectives"

(posted 17/06/2008)


UNODC Project Office for the Baltic States in co-operation with Drug Control Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania organized an international conference "Harm Reduction Programs in Europe: practice, problems and perspectives" on the 29 - 30 of May 2008 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The conference was opened by Mr. Valdemaras Sarapinas, Chancellor of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and Health Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Mr. Rimvydas Turčinskas. More then 250 policy makers, public health experts and members of civil society organizations from different European countries attended the meeting.

Use of illicit psychoactive drugs is dangerous for the health of individuals and society. Among the services provided for drug users is a set of interventions to reduce the risks associated with drug use. Harm reduction is a practical approach that employs a range of different strategies with the goal of minimising the risk of the client contracting infectious diseases, overdosing, or suffering other consequences related to the use of drugs.

During the conference prof. Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Health and Human Development Section, UNODC gave a presentation on drug demand reduction and harm reduction as complementary approaches within the national and international drug policies. Dagmar Hedrich, EMCDDA provided an overview on the EU policy framework related to harm reduction, as well as availability of needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy in different EU countries. Dr. Audronė Astrauskienė, Director of the Drug Control Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania introduced development and current situation of harm reduction programmes in Lithuania. World Health Organization Study on substitution therapy of opioid dependence and HIV/AIDS as well as new WHO guidelines of the psychosocially assisted pharmacological treatment of opioid dependence were presented by Dr. Nicolas Clark from WHO. Mr. Bob Keizer from Trimbos Institute discussed monitoring and evaluation of drug policies, and Mr. Roumen Sedefov from EMCDDA introduced the early warning system of new drugs in Europe. Ms. Signe Rotberga presented the comprehensive approach to HIV prevention among drug injectors as well as the UNODC project "HIV prevention among injecting drug users and in prison settings in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania".

Spanish, Polish, Croatian, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian experience in providing harm reduction services was presented by experts from the respective countries. Discussions during three workshops on substitution treatment, outreach work among drug users and evaluation of drug control policy lead to new and interesting insights and outcomes.

International conference "Harm reduction programs in Europe: practice, problems and perspectives" informed about the recent policy developments and trends in the area of harm reduction, and provided an opportunity to share experiences and discuss the possible ways to improve the quality of and access to harm reduction services. UNODC Project Office for the Baltic States would like to express sincere gratitude for all presenters and partners without whom this event would have been impossible.


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