0 4 April 2017 - To build a productive regional dialogue between the community of people who use drugs and key stakeholders and to develop a common perspective for the future of HIV harm reduction services in the region, UNODC is co-sponsoring the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Harm Reduction Conference " Harm Reduction in the new environment " in Vilnius, Lithuania this week ( 4 - 6 April 2017) .
Organized by the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN) with in the framework of the Regional Program "Harm Reduction Works - Fund It!" funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Conference is dedicated to the results, lessons learnt, and perspectives of civil society and community-driven advocacy for sustainable and high-quality harm reduction programs in Central, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia ( CEECA ).
Mr. Aldo Lale-Demoz , UNODC Deputy Executive Director and the Global Coordinator for HIV/AIDS, addressed the participants in the opening session of the Conference and will chair the session on Harm reduction in prison settings, together with high level law enforcement officials from Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.
In his opening remark, Mr. Lale-Demoz stated:"Globally, between 2011 and 2015, the number of new HIV infections among people who inject drugs increased by 33%, with Eastern Europe and Central Asia having a major share in that. HIV response can only be fast tracked if the rights of people who use drugs to access HIV harm reduction services, as recommended by WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS, is promoted and barriers in accessing those services are removed."
Under the influence of changing economic and political factors, a new environment for harm reduction is emerging in CEECA region. The situation is characterized by decreased international and bilateral donor funding for HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis responses, and a lack of preparedness from growing economies with in the region to ensure a sustainable transition from donor support to national funding of health programs, especially those targeted at key populations.
This evolving environment requires new practices to meet the health and social needs of key populations, and a clear understanding of the impacts of this transition on the region, governments, communities, and HIV harm reduction services.
The Conference will provide an opportunity to discuss the progress of regional, national and local advocacy efforts over the last three years while considering the perspectives of the community, NGO, and state actors to agree on future actions to sustain harm reduction services.
Jointly with EHRN, UNODC will organize a plenary session on " Harm Reduction as a pathway to effective and humane drug policy ", co-chaired by Dr. Monica Beg, Chief of HIV/AIDS Section, UNODC; and three parallel sessions: '' Harm reduction in prison settings"; " Harm reduction and law enforcement partnership "; and " Alternatives to punishment for drug-related offences ". Additionally, UNODC is contributing to the session 'Ensuring quality of Harm Reduction Services and OST - Community Involvement'.
Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Harm Reduction Conference (non-UNODC website)