This case study was conducted by the TB/HIV Care Association, which works to prevent, find and treat TB and HIV in communities in South Africa. Partly through funding and support from Bridging the Gaps Alliance partner Mainline, TB/HIV Care and its partner OUT Wellbeing (providing direct health services to LGBT people, MSM, sex workers, and injecting drug users) have established a joint programme for people who inject drugs (PWID). Bridging the Gaps played a key role in the initial procurement of sterile injecting equipment, enabling the launch of the project, and has continued to support Step Up’s advocacy for the human rights of PWID.

This case study illustrates how TB/HIV Care Association (THCA), and its partner OUT Wellbeing (OUT), have implemented the Step Up Project, an innovative joint initiative to support PWID in South Africa.

The criminalisation and stigmatisation that PWID experience in South Africa, combined with a fear of using health services due to the criminalisation of PWID, has contributed to the widespread use of unsafe injecting practices, such as the sharing and improper use of injecting equipment. In addition to facing stigma and discrimination from health service providers and the public, PWID also face abuse by law enforcement agencies.

The prevalence of high-risk injecting practices identified by a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2013 study, indicated that services were urgently required to address the potential public health impact of injecting drug use, and improve the wellbeing of PWID.