In recent years Myanmar has taken important steps towards harm reduction, away from a punitive approach to drug use. A more supportive environment for people who use drugs has begun to seem possible.
Since 2017, Alliance Myanmar Mahamate, through the Programme to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV Response (PITCH), has been leading the campaign to change the country’s drug policies. In 2018, when the government released a new drug policy that included harm reduction we had cause to celebrate. This shift was significant, but translating policy into action remains challenging – and this is where seven villages in Kalay, an area with high levels of injecting drug use, come in.
In September last year, Mahamate, PITCH and UNODC began working with these villages to pilot the first community-based harm reduction, treatment and care project for people who use drugs recognised by the Ministry of Health. By showing that residents can help people who use drugs, to not only access care and treatment but become socially integrated, we plan to make the case nationally that support for people who use drugs is far more effective than punishment.