Harm Reduction in Malaysia.
In October, two BDP staff attended the International Harm Reduction Conference in Malaysia, to showcase results from several of our exciting research projects to members of the global harm reduction community (read more about our projects and the conference in part one of our review).
Malaysia was chosen to host this year’s conference in recognition of their huge 50% reduction in HIV transmission rates amongst People Who Inject Drugs over the past 10 years. Despite Malaysia’s improved commitment to voluntary drug treatment, a punitive approach to drug use still exists within the country; with 123 Compulsory Drug Detention Centres and a mandatory death penalty for some drug offences.
After the conference we went on the road to meet with some of Malaysia’s fantastic harm reduction projects to find out about more about their success and the challenges they still face.
Our first stop after the conference was the bustling commercial streets of central Kuala Lumpur where we visited two harm reduction projects: IKHLAS, a needle exchange and outreach project run largely by and for people who inject drugs, and SEED (Social & Enabling Environment Development), a project providing HIV support and prevention services to marginalised communities, particularly sex workers and transgendered people.
Established in 2007, SEED provides a drop-in centre, which offers clients with basic health care services and medication pickup. SEED’s drop-in is also the meeting point for clients and their outreach time, for everything from referrals, to information and research gathering, social networking, counselling and other events conducted by each program. Here we met their service users and workers and were given the opportunity to compare our outreach approaches and aspirations.
Although both projects have some financial backing, the funding climate means that staff at IKHLAS currently contribute to rent in order to keep their direct access space open, and SEED produce and sell street snacks outside the project in order to stay afloat. It was inspiring to meet peers so committed to their communities and their work, in the face of a difficult financial and political background.
Stay tuned for part three where we travelled to meet organisation in Hanoi, Vietnam, where there remains a similar conflict between drug control laws and HIV prevention goals.