Network to Reduce Drugs Dependency in South India
Syed Ali Mujtaba
The launch of the South Indian Harm Reduction Network (SIHRN) in Chennai heralds a welcome initiative for people dependent on drugs, especially those living with HIV and AIDS in the Southern States.
There is a serious concern in the southern states of India over under reporting numbers of people injecting drugs and infected with HIV/AIDS.
Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been delivering services for drug injectors for many years now, and injecting epidemics have been reported more recently in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Civil Society and Community Organizations stated their concern over the numbers of deaths being reported and the lack of facilities for care and support currently available through national and state administered services.
The current services for HIV management through needle syringe exchange programs and medication for replacing illicit or grey market opiates have been largely successful but they are simply not enough.
The challenge of co-morbidities including the presence of TB and Hepatitis C along with HIV require wider access to health systems including hospitals.
There is also a huge demand for medically assisted detoxification and rehabilitation services and a scale up of the fledging Opioid Substitution Treatment Programs in the region.
It is in this context that the South Indian Harm Reduction Network that has been launched has a huge role to play.
In a freewheeling interview with A. Sankar, Convener, SIHRN and L. Samson, President, SIHRN, the goals and objectives of the new organization was spelled out.
SIHRN aspires to bring ownership of treatment to affected communities. It wants to mainstream services that include wider health care, psycho-social support, reintegration related to employment, family support and legal aid, Mr. Sankar said.
SIHRN wants to register state level networks that will work closely with state governments and the affected communities. It also wants to strengthen services for people injecting drugs under States AIDS Control Societies. SIHRN likes to advocate for an improved quality of life for drug dependent people, Mr. Sankar added.
L. Samson, President, SIHRN said the challenge is to keep people secure in access to various types of treatment. SIHRN resolve to widen the scope of services to draw together agendas such as homelessness and drug treatment with the key stakeholders managing HIV and AIDS services for people injecting drugs.
Counseling is the glue that will hold the populations adherent to services, as optimism is required to counter the despair felt by the severe stigma and discrimination experienced at mainstream health services, and the abuse on the streets by ill informed law enforcers, Mr. Samson concluded.
The meeting of South Indian Harm Reduction Network SIHRN was held under the auspices of the Indian Harm Reduction on January 28, 2012 in Chennai. It was supported by Sharan, a NGO working on HIV/AIDS in India.
The meet was coordinated by Indian Community Welfare Organization-I.C.W.O, a NGO based in Chennai. More details on this can be obtained from Mr. A.J. Hariharan of ICWO, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com