Monde. This meeting attracted over 50 participants
and included country presentations from Moldova, Kenya, Myanmar and Ukraine with Questions and Answers session at the end
of the meeting. Samantha Hodgetts opened the side event and highlighted in her remarks that in the context of COVID-19, the
situation has been very difficult for everyone and that the state of emergency that governments implemented showed that there
is a need to rapidly adapt many health services. Ms. Hodgetts further noted that this adaptation is important to make sure
that we continue the access to and continuity of service delivery of harm reduction treatment to people who use drugs.
Monica Ciupagea, MD, Expert on drug use and
HIV at the UNODC HIV/AIDS Section, a co-chair of the meeting, underlined that UNODC HIV/AIDS Section started a study with
a focus on high priority countries for drug use and HIV. In her presentation about continuity of the opioid agonist treatment
in UNODC high priority countries for drug use and HIV during COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Ciupagea highlighted several preliminary
results of the study that illustrated that despite COVID-19-related challenges, the treatment for patients in the pandemic
isolation continues with a good adherence to treatment. In addition, the preliminary results of the study showed that take-home
dose policy along with a virtual support increased satisfaction among patients and implementers.
The experience of Moldova on how the substitution
treatment program had been organized for the patients during the COVID-19 pandemic was presented by Dr. Lilia Fiodorova, psychiatrist-narcologist at
the Republican Narcology Dispensary of Moldova. Ms. Fiodorova emphasized that given the state of emergency in Moldova, according
to the recommendations of the Ministry and UNODC, and taking into consideration patients’ needs, an internal Instruction on
individual provision of take-home methadone and buprenorphine to patients was adopted.
Ms. Helgar Musyoki, the Head of the Prevention Unit
and Program Manager, NASCOP Ministry of Health of Kenya presented an overview on medication-assisted therapy and take-home
doses in Kenya where specific service delivery strategy was adopted in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The main objectives
of this strategy in Kenya include the support for key population-focused programs and provision of continuity of HIV prevention,
testing and treatment for key populations.
The Myanmar country example was presented by Dr. Minn Thit Aung, Médecins
du Monde Myanmar in Kachin. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Myanmar, Médecins du Monde set up infection prevention
and control measures at methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) centers and ensured social distancing, provision of face masks
for clients and temperature monitoring. According to the order issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports of Myanmar, methadone
replacement therapy (MRT) clients were provided with take-home doses for 14 days with an aim to avoid COVID-19 transmission
in MMT centers. Mr. Minn Thit Aung noted that given the current political situation and the state of emergency in the country, almost
all methadone centers continue to provide take-home doses to the clients that contributes to a longer treatment retention.