Efforts towards comprehensive harm reduction in the occupied Palestinian Territory
From 4 to 8 November 2012, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa and its Programme Office for the occupied Palestinian Territory together with the Ministry of Health held a workshop on “Moving towards comprehensive harm reduction in the occupied Palestinian Territory: Training for HIV prevention outreach to people who inject drugs”, at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Ramallah. The purpose of this specialized training was to orient, advocate and train governmental public health decision-makers, and NGO programme managers on the comprehensive package of HIV prevention and care services to people who inject drugs including community outreach programmes to hard to reach drug users.
The Workshop served to further UNODC technical support to maintain a low HIV epidemic among people who inject drugs in the occupied Palestinian Territory with funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM). In close cooperation with Palestinian Ministries of Health and Interior, and through funding from the GFATM, UNODC has already supported the establishment of two drop-in centers in Gaza and the West Bank respectively, providing community outreach services through NGOs such as Al Maqdese. Al Maqdese had reached 255 drug users (of which 175 inject drugs) in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, with 1,500 sterile needles and syringes and 1,100 male condoms during a five-month period in 2010.
Some of the recommendations reached in the training workshop included the need to further link together services provided by the Ministry of Health (HIV Voluntary counseling and testing, and Hepatitis testing and treatment) for NGOs to improve their referral system. The National AIDS Committee has in fact agreed to provide HIV rapid testing and counseling services to some of the NGOs. Moreover, the workshop provided the forum for national partners to discuss opioid substitutions treatment (OST) programmes and there has been general consensus on the importance of introducing OST in the Palestinian Authority with the recommendation to undertake a feasibility study to explore the mechanism of introducing the identified controlled substance to initiate a pilot intervention.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health and its National AIDS Committee is fully committed to supporting the comprehensive harm reduction response which includes needle and syringe programmes. Previous efforts undertaken with support from UNODC include: an HIV situation and needs assessment undertaken among problematic drug users and in prison settings in the occupied Palestinian Territory, development of a harm reduction strategy as part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, peer education programmes among people who inject drugs and various trainings, study tours and advocacy workshops for national partners and civil society organizations from the Gaza and West Bank.
For more information: Please contact:
Yasmine Refaat HIV Project Officer firstname.lastname@example.org
Khaldoun Oweis National Coordination Officer email@example.com