When integrated in harm reduction policy, supervised injection facilities (SIF) proved their efficiency in fighting AIDS and overdoses, and improving healthcare accessibility. Several European Countries successfully developed such facilities, though France has not stepped forward yet.
In order to draw a discussion on the SIFs issue in France, a group of associations opened one in Paris on the World Hepatitis Day on May 19th, 2009. The SIF was equipped with sterile drug consumption material, supervised by health professionals... though drug users were not allowed to use the premises due to French drug regulation. Many journalists, attracted by what they believed to be an illegal action (we did not mention in our press release that drug would not be allowed) came to visit the SIF. They were able to discuss with health professionals and expressed a general positive opinion toward the topic in their reports.
This media success allowed us to start a political lobbying action aimed to advocate the experiment of a SIF in Paris. Numerous appointments with political leaders led to two important decisions. Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot announced that such an experiment would be allowed depending on the notice of a national scientific expert committee (INSERM) and the city council of Paris sponsored a seminar on SIFs aimed for elected representatives of several French cities.
This action demonstrates that harm reduction is an attractive topic for media and politicians, particularly when activists can use sensationalism which media are often very fond of, drug being one of the most media attracting subjects of the last decades. Eventually, the success of this action must be credited to addiction professionals, drug users, HIV patients and hepatitis patients associations, who managed to gather their strengths and find complementarities, while respecting each one’s identity.
Asud, Anitea, Act Up – Paris, Gaïa Paris, Safe, Sos Hépatites Paris, salledeconsommation.fr