Harm reduction strategies are central to preventing HIV and viral hepatitis. Harm reduction underpins Australia’s public health response to the transmission of HIV and other BBVs, particularly through injecting drug use. Public health measures should be designed to reduce the harm that drug use causes, both to individuals and the community. The objective is to reduce the transmission of disease, the personal and social impact and the loss of quality of life caused by ill health.
Priority actions in preventing blood borne viruses from injecting drug use
- Increase the coverage and accessibility of NSPs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in urban and regional areas where most injecting drug users are.
- Facilitate the provision of high-quality, timely, primary healthcare that will provide prevention, early detection, treatment and follow-up services for HIV, viral hepatitis, BBVs and STIs.
- Promote peer education-based models and outreach to reach marginalised groups.
- Encourage and support partnerships between ACCHS, peerbased drug user organisations, community-based and peak HIV and hepatitis C organisations, and research bodies in developing and delivering tailored harm reduction strategies; and between different health programs (e.g. drug and alcohol, mental health, sexual health, corrections) to ensure testing and treatment pathways are accessible.
- Strengthen evidence-based harm reduction approaches to BBV and STIs in custodial settings, including through drug substitution programs, the availability of condoms and lubricant, exploring the feasibility of implementing access to safe tattooing and piercing programs, and state and territory governments identifying opportunities to pilot regulated needle and syringe distribution.
- Consider issues around re-entry into the community for those leaving custodial settings such as prevention, testing, treatment and completion of vaccination courses.
- Ensure initiatives are fully evaluated and the findings disseminated as widely as possible to community partners, health departments, research centres, ACCHS and professional bodies.
- Promote an environment free of discrimination on the basis of sexual practice, ethnicity and drug use behaviour.