Zimbabwe: Harm reduction strategy key in curbing liver damage from drug, substance use

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Zimbabwe: Harm reduction strategy key in curbing liver damage from drug, substance use

13 May 2024
Catherine Murombenzi
The Herald

Mr Wilson Box, director of an organisation that seeks to alleviate drug abuse Zimbabwe, Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN), advocates for harm reduction for drug and injecting users. His mantra is “Support, Don’t Punish”.

His organisation is a member of the Southern Africa Drug Policy and Harm Reduction Network.

“In harm reduction, we are looking at public policies, programmes and interventions. Programming entails compassion, fighting stigma and drug use education.

“It involves drug users’ communities being at the centre, with stakeholders helping in alleviating the scourge.

“In harm reduction, you don’t have to force anyone to stop using drugs, but to educate them. Highlighting the risks and dangers is pivotal to the success of harm reduction. Criminalisation drives drug users into hiding.

“Principles applied should encourage a user to come forward. Very few drug users are coming out.

“The punishing requires softening and reforming policies and laws to be non-criminalising. The users fear being arrested, and policy reform is needed urgently. As organisations working in harm reduction, we don’t judge, we don’t use coercion, we don’t stigmatise and discriminate, and we don’t use force anyone to stop using drugs. Rather, we educate by giving the benefits. We put justice and human rights as pillars in harm reduction.

“The access to anti-retroviral therapy, (ART) is important if we are to end AIDS. Access is one of the co pillars of harm reduction. The WHO approves 12 interventions, access to ART services, sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), agonistic therapy, sexual transmitted infections (STI) testing services, treatment, care and support, education, among many important others.

“Nurses and peer-led outreach programmes are important to harm reduction. Overdose management is effective, too. Harm reduction has proved effective in lessening the negative impacts of drug misuse. It’s high time we assist those using and injecting drugs in a compassionate manner,” he added.

Mr Box emphasised the unity of purpose being a cog in the wheel.

Drug users come from families and communities. Therefore, everyone should come on board.

“Everyone, families, the teachers, churches, community leaders and everyone influential needs to be aware of this important intervention. Our current policy, where drug users are arrested, will result in them hiding and continuing underground. It’s a no win-win for everyone if we continue on that route,” said Mr Box.

Harm reduction is a strategy meant to raise awareness.

With the internal organs being the most ravished if harm reduction is not drummed up, we stand to lose a sizeable number of our youths to substance and drug misuse.

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