August 30 - October 19, 2022 – Belarus – UNODC, jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, organized five advocacy round tables on Opioid Agonist Therapy in Vitebsk, Mahilyou, Brest, Gomel and Grodno. A total of 84 specialists participated in the round table-training events, including representatives of the juvenile affairs committee, medical doctors and administration of OAT medical centres, 33 drug control officers, 35 narcologists and four social protection workers. Most important, the representatives of community-led organizations (people who use drugs, OAT patients) acted as equal consultants at the meetings.
According to the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022, an estimated 80,000 people who inject drugs live in Belarus. 22,7% of people who use drugs in the country are also living with HIV, 58,2% have Hepatitis C and 2,5% have Hepatitis B (World drug Report 2022). Belarus is one of the few countries in Europe that reported an increase in direct drug-related mortality in 2020, mainly related to polysubstance use as well as to the presence of illicitly manufactured methadone on the black market. Although take-home dosage is permitted for responsible patients, this option is not widely used because of the unadjusted policing practices. Coverage of opioid agonist treatment among people who inject drugs is estimated to be below 10%.
The level of knowledge and awareness shown by the law enforcers who represent drug control departments in the Republic of Belarus ranged from moderate to high, and concerns are primarily associated with the practical aspects of the OAT programs and criminal situation. Due to a lack of awareness, law enforcement officers often do not see the OAT program as an effective and necessary intervention to address the rising challenges related to the region's shifting drug consumption trends.