Can distributing clean NEEDLES ever be as easy as giving out CONDOMS?
Fighting HIV/AIDS in Thailand: can distributing clean needles ever be as easy as giving out condoms?
When I think of HIV/AIDs, symbols pop into my mind: the red looped ribbon and the free condom. They’re actually a good representation of what Thailand is doing best to combat the epidemic- massive information campaigns and the 100% Condom Program which saw the dramatic decline of HIV/AIDS among sex workers.
However, those symbols faded in my mind after I visited an old, impoverished part of Bangkok and met the people who currently are the most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS- the injection drug users.
HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases are transmitted when needles are shared. Under influence, many users are also likely to have unprotected sex. There are programs called ‘harm reduction’ where drug users are provided with clean needles, syringes, and condoms to avoid transmission. Condom distribution is easy but needles are another issue.
It’s not uncommon here to hear stories of community workers delivering clean needles harassed by the police. Possession of needles and syringes, in fact, isn’t illegal in Thailand. Harm reduction programs aren’t also widely accepted because of the way society sees drug users. Tragically, this pushes drug users further underground and further away from the help they need.
When we speak about HIV/AIDS we also have to listen to the voices of the most vulnerable. I spoke to three people who are very familiar with harm reduction, drug use, and the epidemic.
More info: http://blogs.worldbank.org/eastasiapacific/fighting-hivaids-in-thailand-can-distributing-clean-needles-ever-be-as-easy-as-giving-out-condoms#comment-6205
BY ANNE ELICAÑO