Neil Hunt, UK Harm Reduction Alliance, finishing his presentation
under the watchful eyes of Tony Geoghegan, Merchants Quay
Ireland and Ruaidhri McAuliffe, UISCE.
Neil Hunt, founding director of the UK Harm Reduction Alliance and keynote speaker said that "In many respects, injecting drug users have become the lepers of industrialised western society: commonly regarded as the authors of their own mistakes, they are often despised, feared, and misunderstood. Working with such a stigmatised and marginalised population presents enormous challenges. He argued further that “'harm reduction’ entirely underpins such work and involves a combination of clearly-evidenced interventions in conjunction with innovative approaches carefully geared towards keeping injecting drug users alive by preventing blood-borne infections and overdose deaths. Although we should have greater aspirations than simply preserving the lives of people who inject, achieving nationwide coverage with high quality harm reduction programmes that do this is an absolutely essential foundation for any effective drug strategy, as no other intervention can work once a drug user is dead".
Tony Geoghegan, Director of Merchants Quay Ireland said “It is really encouraging to have to the Minister with responsibility for the National Drug Strategy, Pat Carey, here to open this event and to launch the Safer Injecting Guide as it demonstrates his real commitment to reducing harm for the most vulnerable drug users. “For many Harm Reduction is the first step towards addressing their drug use and access to needle exchange and other harm reduction services can be instrumental in reducing risk of HIV and drugs overdose. In the new national strategy we need to see a commitment to the extension of needle exchange programmes nationwide including evenings and weekends, It is also important” he suggested “to explore some of the interventions which have been successful internationally e.g. Safer Injecting Facilities where drug users are allowed to inject drugs onsite in an effort to reduce; the sharing of injecting equipment, injuries which result from poor injecting techniques and the number of drug related deaths. The development of this new drug strategy provides us with the opportunity to be innovative, creative and effective by introducing measures which will have a lasting impact on the health and the quality of life of so many drug users”.