Harm reduction is defined as both a movement for social justice, as well as policies, practices, and programs that center the rights and autonomy of people who use drugs. Additionally, harm reduction recognizes the role of structural oppression and social inequities that impact individuals and aims to reduce the negative consequences associated with substance drug use at the individual, community, and systemic levels. Harm reduction is person-centered and not a one-size-fits-all model, thus there is no prescribed way of practicing harm reduction. Instead, harm reduction is guided by a set of eight core principles which are made available by the National Harm Reduction Coalition. Though harm reduction emerged from the context of injection drug use in the 1980’s, harm reduction has been implemented across a range of settings (i.e., interventions that promote strategies to reduce potential risks for people who exchange money, drugs or goods for sex; programs that reduce tobacco use).
EUM’s best practice policies to facilitate use of a sterile needle and syringe for each injection and reduce transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis B (HBV), and other pathogens:
- Provide sterile needles in the quantities requested by clients without requiring clients to return used needles
- Place no limit on the number of needles provided per client, per visit (one-for-one exchange is not recommended)
- Encourage clients to return and/or properly dispose of used needles and syringes
- Offer a variety of needle and syringe types by gauge, size, and brand that meet the needs of clients and educate clients about the proper use of different syringes
- Educate clients about the risks of using non-sterile needles
- Provide pre-packaged safer injection kits (needles/syringes, cookers, filters, ascorbic acid when required, sterile water for injection, alcohol swabs, tourniquets, condoms, and lubricant) and also individual safer injection supplies concurrently