The Ugandan Ministry of Health has made a breakthrough decision to pilot needle and syringe programmes (NSP), led by the Uganda Harm Reduction Network (UHRN) and Community Health Alliance Uganda (CHAU).

The NSP programme will reach 250 people who inject drugs in four districts (Kampala, Mbarara, Mbale and Gulu). The pilot is being implemented by UHRN and will run until December 2018 as part of the Ugandan Global Fund programme, with a vision to scale up to more sites in Uganda.

Advocacy breakthrough

The landmark decision was confirmed by the Ministry of Health in September. It is the result of soft and evidence-based advocacy led by Alliance Linking Organisation CHAU in partnership with UHRN, a drug user-led network that delivers peer-to-peer HIV and harm reduction services.

Wamala Twaibu, Executive Director at URHN, said: “For the past six years our strategy has been to use soft skills advocacy, targeting high level and influential persons in the Ministry of Health, and within internal affairs and law enforcement circles, to accept the concept of harm reduction in Uganda.

“With support from the Alliance’s PITCH programme [Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response], we have been able to amplify the voices of people who inject drugs more effectively. Through their shared testimonies we have been able to voice out the need for needle and syringe programmes and established collaborative working relationships.

"People who use drugs have been supported to participate and organise at a grassroots level, and take part in high-level meetings and decision-making fora at district, national and global level. This has enabled us to finally secure Ministry of Health buy-in for the implementation of the needle and syringe programme in the country.”

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