While the insurgency steals the headlines, a separate and growing problem remains "under the radar" in Thailand's South; the number of injecting drug users (IDU) is on the rise in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat and their rights and quality of life are being eroded.
One of the few initiatives tackling the problem is Ozone Centre, which is using harm reduction approach.
Heroin is relatively easy to access locally and also affordable - at least for those in the early stages of addiction. A high proportion of drug users in the South are IDUs. Injecting as a method brings its own problems, including diseases contracted from unclean equipment and HIV and Hepatitis B and C transmitted through sharing needles.
In 2011, the PSI Foundation, backed by the Methadone Maintenance Treatment available at Sungai Kolok Hospital plus information on the number of local drug users, established its first Ozone Centre, in Sungai Kolok District, Narathiwat. The centre aims to reduce the negative consequences associated with drug use, an approach known as Harm Reduction. Those negative consequences can be to personal health, the economy, the community and wider society
The Ozone Centre has an outreach programme manned by drug users who act as volunteers to help their fellow users in the community. Each volunteer offers peer knowledge that helps others reduce the harmful effects of drug use. To mitigate the risk of HIV transmission, Ozone runs a needle exchange programme, with users given clean equipment in exchange for their used needles.
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