The timely report describes the impact of COVID 12 on the delivery of harm reduction services in Asia. Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on harm reduction funding and service provision is essential for informing donor and government action as well as civil society advocacy. People who use drugs have faced disproportionate risks of exposure and susceptibility to COVID-19, alongside barriers to healthcare. This is particularly true of those who are in prison or detained. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some positive changes, with harm reduction services quickly adapting and innovating in response to the altered conditions. The following is a summary of the research findings. The most profound example of this is the change in OAT administration. In the majority of countries analysed, the criteria for take-home doses of OAT have been relaxed and, in some jurisdictions, increased the number of people accessing OAT.
However, it is unclear how the harm reduction needs of non-opioid users are being met. Peers and outreach workers are doing a greater share of work to fill in for healthcare workers. But despite their efforts, peers and outreach workers are not being given ‘frontline worker’ status, meaning they lack personal protection equipment (PPE) and in some instances face travel restrictions. Civil society organisations have expressed concerns that the pandemic might affect donor priorities and lead to programmatic changes, with significant consequences for the health and rights of people who use drugs. Moreover, although IT has helped bridge the communication gaps in service provision, there are still gaps in service provision.
- Choudhury, L