National Hepatitis C Resource Manual 2nd Edition

Harm minimisation

Page last updated: May 2008

      Harm minimisation is the official policy concept underpinning national and state public health strategies, such as the National Hepatitis C Strategy 2005–2008 and the National Drug Strategy 2004–2009. Harm Minimisation is consistent with a comprehensive approach to reducing drug-related harm, and involves supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction strategies.

    Supply Reduction, Demand Reduction and Harm Reduction

    • Supply reduction aims to disrupt production and distribution of illicit drugs.
    • Demand reduction means reducing the demand for and the uptake of harmful drug use.
    • Harm reduction reduces drug-related harm in the community.

    Supply reduction and demand reduction

    The effects of all proposed and implemented supply and demand reduction strategies must be examined to determine whether their net impact reduces or increases overall harm. Many supply and demand reduction strategies may have unanticipated effects, or effects that are not immediately apparent.
    For example, imprisoning people for possession or use of injectable drugs may be considered to be part of a strategy for limiting supply and/or demand for drugs. It may also result in the greater harm of increased transmission of blood- borne viruses in prisons. Consequently, imprisonment is now considered an independent risk factor for hepatitis C.
    Another example is a reduction in the street supply of a drug, perhaps due to increased surveillance by authorities. The resulting reduction in availability and higher cost can lead to reduced drug purity with the consequent higher risks of contamination with other substances and possible overdose when the drug is injected.