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Home > Topics > Health > Pandemic: Facing AIDS > Harm Reduction
Pandemic: Facing AIDS
Harm Reduction

Worldwide, about five percent of people with HIV contracted the virus through injection drug use. In the former Soviet Union, over ninety percent of the newly infected are injection drug users, and the rate of HIV infection is skyrocketing. The number of reported diagnoses of AIDS in the Russian Federation has almost doubled every year since 1998. By January 2002, 250,000 people had registered as HIV positive, a 1,500 percent increase since 1998. According to most experts, the real number is probably closer to one million, and there are indications that the virus is spreading from the drug-using population to the general population. Education and prevention programs in Russia are in a race against time. Studies in the United States and elsewhere show that syringe swaps and educational outreach can reduce the rate of HIV infection without promoting or increasing drug use. Furthermore, needle exchanges can bring drug users into contact with healthcare providers, prevention messages, and even referrals to drug treatment facilities. Still, needle exchange programs remain illegal in most parts of Russia, and public awareness campaigns are few and far between. Those prevention efforts that do exist are run by small grassroots groups who are struggling to get their message across. They need financial help and international recognition so that their voices will be heard.

For related information about organizations promoting harm reduction programs, especially in Russia, visit the links below.

Drug Policy Alliance
925 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
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Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization working to broaden the public debate on drug policy and to promote realistic alternatives to the war on drugs based on science, compassion, public health and human rights. The Alliance was formerly known as The Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation.

The guiding principle of the Alliance is harm reduction, an alternative approach to drug policy and treatment that focuses on minimizing the adverse effects of both drug use and drug prohibition. The Alliance and its affiliated organizations are deeply involved in educating Americans and others about alternatives to current drug policies on issues ranging from marijuana and adolescent drug use to illicit drug addiction, the spread of infectious diseases, policing drug markets and alternatives to incarceration. Particular attention is paid to analyzing the experiences of foreign countries in reducing drug-related harms.

For more information, visit the Drug Policy Alliance Web site.

Harm Reduction Coalition
22 West 27th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10001
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The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) is committed to reducing drug-related harm among individuals and communities by initiating and promoting local, regional, and national harm reduction education, interventions, and community organizing. HRC fosters alternative models to conventional health and human services and drug treatment; challenges traditional client/provider relationships; and provides resources, educational materials, and support to health professionals and drug users in their communities to address drug-related harm.

The HIV epidemic has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and continues to rage on. HRC believes that swift public policy changes and the implementation of critical services could have prevented an untold number of deaths and HIV infections among injection drug users, their sexual partners, and children.

The Harm Reduction Coalition believes in every individual's right to health and well being as well as in their competency to protect and help themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.

Donations to HRC will support the ongoing collective demand for appropriate care, public health and basic human rights for drug users.

For more information, visit the Harm Reduction Coalition Web site.


Harm Reduction Project
455 East 400 South, Suite 208
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
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The term harm reduction refers to various strategies and approaches for reducing the physical and social harms associated with risk-taking behavior. Harm reduction is about: preventing HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, overdose, incarceration and isolation; making dangerous behaviors less dangerous; and, improving and saving lives. Harm reduction among drug users can take many forms (education, counseling, drug substitution, syringe exchange, advocacy, abstinence, maintenance, etc.

The Harm Reduction Project advocates for drug policy reform and works for the enhancement of services available to marginalized populations. Its mission is to reduce the harm associated with marginalized behavior.

For more information, visit the Harm Reduction Project Web site.


International Harm Reduction Development
c/o Open Society Institute
400 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019
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The International Harm Reduction Development program, a project of the Open Society Institute (OSI), grew in response to increasing rates of drug use and HIV infection in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Its mission is to diminish the individual and social harms associated with drug use - particularly the risk of HIV infection - through innovative measures based on the philosophy of harm reduction. This approach places an emphasis on human rights, common sense, and public health.

Research suggests that appropriate public health policies and timely interventions can prevent, stabilize or even reverse HIV epidemics among drug users. The World Bank recommends that countries with small HIV epidemics should act early to implement prevention programs, and that they should focus on those most at risk for HIV infection: in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union this usually means injecting drug users.

IHRD advances harm reduction in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union by:

  • Providing grants and technical support to local direct service providers;
  • Supporting regional, population-based and topic-specific initiatives;
  • Promoting local and regional capacity-building; and
  • Creating an enabling public policy atmosphere.

In conjunction with OSI's Network Public Health Programs and the national Soros Foundations, IHRD currently supports more than 180 projects in over 20 countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

For more information, visit the International Harm Reduction Development Web site.


Learn more about what organizations are doing to promote harm reduction in the field.

AIDS Foundation East-West
AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) is an international, humanitarian, public health non-governmental organization whose mission is to contribute to the reduction of the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Newly Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union.

Asian Harm Reduction Network
The Asian Harm Reduction Network is a global information and support network, created to link and support the people and programs working in Asia to stop HIV among injecting drug users.

Central & Eastern European Harm Reduction Network
The Central and Eastern European Harm Reduction Network develops and implements common policies to benefit the health and well being of individuals living in Central and Eastern European countries and in Newly Independent States.

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