Islamic Republic of Iran


UNODC Iran Conducts Training Workshop for Needs Assessment of Harm Reduction Centers


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Country Office in Iran, in collaboration with the Islamic Republic of Iran Drug Control Headquarters (DCHQ); Roozbeh Institute, an Iranian NGO; and the Mainline Foundation, a Dutch NGO specialized in harm reduction, held the first of two training workshops for Iranian harm reduction professionals on 17 November 2021.

Iran has a comprehensive and widespread harm reduction programme that is unique for its region. Harm reduction services, including distribution of clean needles and syringes, distribution of condoms, free HIV testing and treatment, methadone maintenance therapy, and mobile outreach services are provided under this programme by public and private centers to drug users in need of these services.  The result has been a significant drop in the rate of HIV among drug users in Iran over the past decade. Nonetheless, with the large population of drug users in Iran (around 200,000 injecting heroin users alone) and an increase in use of methamphetamine as well as drug use among women and youth over the past decade, there is still room for improvement of the programme. Therefore, a research team of Dutch and Iranian harm reduction experts will conduct a needs assessment of the harm reduction programme in Iran.  This assessment will be done with the support of UNODC Iran and DCHQ as well as generous funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The assessment aims at finding gaps in the Iranian harm reduction programme, such as limitations in the accessibility of services to particular groups of drugs users. To do this, the researchers will be conducting interviews with harm reduction service recipients, service providers, and decision makers in the field. In addition, the research team will visit the drop-in centers of several Iranian NGOs providing harm reduction services and drug use hotspots called “patoghs” to conduct field observations of the provision of harm reduction services at these locations. After the needs assessment, the researchers will prepare a report of their findings and their recommendations for how to improve the programme. This assessment can provide the Iranian government with greater clarity on whether the programme is being implemented as designed, and offer suggestions for how to improve the service package and provision of services to better meet the needs of the various sub-groups of drug users in Iran.

The purpose of the present workshop is to train a supporting team of researchers for the needs assessment. It was led by an Iranian harm reduction expert from the Roozbeh Institute and two Dutch harm reduction experts from the Mainline Foundation.

The training introduced Iranian harm reduction professionals to the goals and methodology of the needs assessment and promoted discussion between the participants about the strengths and weaknesses they have seen in the harm reduction programme. The training was held in-person in Tehran, with observance of safety precautions related to COVID-19, while the Dutch experts attended virtually.

This training will be followed by a second training in late November that will go into further detail on the plan for the needs assessment. While not all the participants of the two trainings will take part in conducting the needs assessment, their participation in the trainings can increase their knowledge on best practices in the field of harm reduction and on how to conduct qualitative research.