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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

The impact of harm reduction on HIV and illicit drug use

Lianping Ti12 and Thomas Kerr13*

Author Affiliations

1 British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul’s Hospital, 608 - 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6, Canada

2 School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada

3 Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6, Canada

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Harm Reduction Journal 2014, 11:7  doi:10.1186/1477-7517-11-7

Published: 21 February 2014

Abstract

There has been widespread support for harm reduction programs as an essential component for responding to the HIV and illicit drug use epidemics. However, despite the growing international acceptance of harm reduction, there continues to be strong opposition to this approach, with critics alleging that harm reduction programs enable drug use. Vancouver, Canada provides a compelling case study that demonstrates that many positive impacts of harm reduction can be attained while addiction treatment-related goals are simultaneously supported. While the evidence for harm reduction is clearly mounting, it is unfortunate that ideological and political barriers to implementing harm reduction programs in Canada remain. As evidenced by Vancouver and elsewhere, harm reduction programs do not exacerbate drug use and undermine treatment efforts and should thereby occupy a well-deserved space within the continuum of programs and services offered to people who inject drugs.

Keywords:
Harm reduction; Illicit drug use; Canada