Injecting drug users

We have a fresh focus on the health of people who inject drugs. We are focusing on raising awareness and reducing the risk of HIV among this vulnerable group.  The use of drugs in South African plays a part in HIV epidemic – it heightens the risk of both contracting and transmitting HIV and worsen the consequences of the infection.

The influence of drug use

Not only does the use of intravenous drug and needle-sharing transmit HIV; the influence of certain drugs limits behaviours towards safe sexual practises including “transactional” sex—trading sex for drugs or money.

Studies show that drug abuse and addiction can also worsen HIV symptoms, causing greater neuronal injury and cognitive impairment.

Package of services for people who inject drugs

Right to Care supports programmes that provide a package of mobile outreach HIV prevention and linkage to care services for people who inject drugs (PWID). This package is recommended by PEPFAR, WHO and the UNODC and includes:

Drug abuse treatment is an effective way to prevent the spread of HIV. Our specially designed treatment and prevention initiatives include:

  • HIV counselling and testing,
  • Referral for antiretroviral therapy and HIV care and support,
  • Prevention of, screening, treatment and/or referral for treatment of STIs,
  • Condom and lubricant distribution,
  • Targeted information regarding HIV, STI’s, reducing drug use and safe injection practises, and
  • Prevention, screening and referral for diagnosis and treatment of TB.

Limiting the need to share needles

Right to Care supports health and harm reduction services to people who use drugs. These services include the distribution of harm reduction packs to people who are registered as service beneficiaries. These packs include sterile or clean injecting equipment. The programme also encourages service beneficiaries to return as many used needles to the outreach team for safe disposal. According to Human Rights Watch “programmes that provide access to sterile syringes have been proven time and again to reduce HIV transmission without either encouraging drug use or increasing drug-related crime”.