TB HIV Care heads to the 2019 International Harm Reduction Conference in Portugal

Andrew Scheibe (Technical Advisor), Tara Gerardy (Psychosocial and Opioid Substitution Therapy Project Coordinator), Shaun Shelly (PWUD Projects, Policy, Advocacy & Human Rights Manager), Charity Monareng (Parliamentary and Policy Research Officer) and Julie MacDonell (SA Drug Policy Week/ Psychosocial Principal Administrator and Counsellor) represented TB HIV Care at the 2019 International Harm Reduction Conference in Porto, Portugal (28 April – 01 May).

The event, hosted every two years, brings together harm reduction and drug policy experts from around the world.

On Sunday, 27 April THC co-hosted an INSHU (The International Network on Hepatitis in Substance Users) symposium with the Australasian society of HIV, hepatitis and sexual medicine. Over 80 participants from five continents shared best practice and advances in hepatitis services in harm reduction settings. Andrew Scheibe co-chaired the event and also presented an overview of hepatitis services provided for women who use drugs on behalf of Andrea Schneider (National PWID Project Manager).

Also on the Sunday, representatives from THC participated in Drug Policy Day (hosted by UNITE), which included members of parliament and donors. Charity Monareng (Parliamentary and Policy Research Officer) has been working with UNITE for several months to support the establishment of a Southern African chapter.

It was a busy week. Shaun Shelly (PWUD Projects, Policy, Advocacy & Human Rights Manager) presented at several sessions around harm reduction in South Africa. Andrew Scheibe (Technical Advisor) co-chaired a working group session of the international stimulant harm reduction working group, where Tara Gerardy facilitated a group discussion around community-based stimulant harm reduction services.

Tara Gerardy and Monique Marks delivered poster presentations on the Cape Town and Durban opioid substitution therapy (OST) projects. Monique Marks also presented around the experience of the halting of THC’s needle and syringe service in Durban and subsequent engagement with the city.

Team members also had a range of meetings with global partners (incl. Global Fund and WHO), strategic partners, harm reduction providers as well as potential donors and partners. Both formal and informal sessions allowed for sharing of experiences and networking.

The trip included a site visit, a great opportunity for the team as Portugal was the first country to decriminalise all drugs in 2001. Portugal is an example of the positive impact of drug policy reform and harm reduction (including a significant drop in overdoses, HIV infections and drug-related crimes) – something that TB HIV Care works hard towards achieving in South Africa.

Thanks so much to all involved!