Algeria: Addressing the Needs of People Who Inject Drugs

Algiers, Algeria - 7 June 2022

Globally, around 36 million people are drug dependent, including 12 million women who require treatment services.[1] Scientific data suggest that opioid dependence is a chronic illness with frequent relapses. Opioid dependence can be compared with other chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. There are no particular “cures” for chronic diseases.[2]’[3] Nevertheless, with appropriate long‐term therapy and medical care, together with the behavioral change in patients, it is possible to eliminate or reduce symptoms and reach high quality of life.

Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT), in particular based on Methadone and Buprenorphine, is a cost‐effective and evidence-based intervention recommended by WHO and other United Nations entities to treat opioid dependence and HIV prevention. OAT is normally taken in oral form within a regulated environment under clinical supervision to prevent any possible diversion.

Algeria is moving forward with upscaling its national operations on OAT usage, which was launched in 2020. The Algerian Ministry of Health, UNODC, and UNAIDS organized the first of a series of training workshops on OAT for 36 (25 female and 11 male) health officials from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the National Office Against Drugs Abuse and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from Algiers, Oran, and Annaba in Algiers. The activities aimed to expand and extend Algeria’s efforts in its evidence-based harm reduction programme including OAT.

The training provided the officials with key knowledge on guiding principles of harm reduction, evidence-based OAT, government laws, regulations, and policies related to purchasing, transferring, storing, and preventing diversion of controlled substances. Furthermore, the knowledge provided to the participants covered how OAT is effective in reducing illicit opioid use and injection frequency (hence transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C). It also increases safe injection practices, retains eligible people with HIV/AIDS in antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, reduces engagement in drug-related illegal activities, reduces the likelihood of incarceration, and increases the likelihood of employment. All these factors together mean that OAT stabilizes the lives of the patients, providing substantial benefits for patients, their families, and the broader community. Experts from Algeria, Egypt, France, and Iran joined the workshop virtually and provided valuable information to the participants to provide a diverse and holistic view of different realities.

The workshop was a reflection of the strong commitment of Algeria and the UN system to work hand in hand in solidarity and shared responsibility to help end the AIDS epidemic and guarantee the right to health for all. Everybody agreed that we can only reach the target of ending AIDS if we put people, including people who use drugs and live in closed settings, at the center of our efforts and leave no one behind.

The activities were possible thanks to the generous contribution of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

[1]World Drug Report 2021.

[2]McLellan A.T. and al., 2000, WHO, 2004.

[3]NIDA. 2020, June 3. How effective is drug addiction treatment?. Retrieved from