Civil society organizations (CSOs) in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are the principal partners of government in scaling up the response to HIV and in implementing national policies. In return, CSOs expect endorsement of their work by the governments. Some CSOs face weaknesses and need capacitybuilding in order for them to reach the level of response required for reducing drug-related harm in this region. Substance use and the transmission of HIV are increasing in the MENA region. The limited data available on drug use show that there are approximately 630,000 people who inject drugs (PWID) across the region. The HIV epidemic remains concentrated among PWID and other key populations in the region. Comprehensive harm reduction programs which include prevention, care, and HIV treatment for PWID are being implemented by CSOs. This could not happen without the presence of a conducive environment which has been facilitated by the CSOs, and which aims to lead to a positive response in health policies, and thus to harm reduction programs in some countries in the region. However, based on the international data, antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage remains low in these countries, even if the number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) receiving ART is increasing. This increase can sometimes mask important challenges in equity: in several countries PWID are the most likely to be infected with HIV while being the least likely to be receiving care and ART. Therefore, concentrated efforts need to continue toward the goal of having mainstream harm reduction approaches in region.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.