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HOPS calls Macedonian government to support harm reduction programmes

Global Fund is leaving Macedonia this year in June. It means that most of the services will be closed or reduced to minimum if the Government doesn't provide financial support. Healthy Options Project Skopje - HOPS started a  campaign for securing sustainability of harm reduction programs in Macedonia with various activities - petition, meetings with Ministry of Health, press conferences, social media campaign, a video.  The key focus are harm reduction programs for drug users, but wider focus are all programs targeting key populations - sex workers, MSM, PLWHA.

Programs to reduce the harm of drug use in Macedonia are dating back to 1996. Since then a total of 17 such programs was developed, 4  of which in Skopje and 13 in the other 13 cities. These programs are characterized by complementarity, offering multiple services in one place - the exchange of sterile syringes, condoms, services by a nurse, social worker, outreach, testing for HIV and hepatitis C in 6 cities and free legal aid. Except the support of City Of Skopje to one of the programs in Skopje, all the rest are financially supported only by Global Fund to Fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Global Fund also  funds 7 programs for support of sex workers in 9 cities in Macedonia. All programs provide outreach work with condom/lubricant distribution, peer education, medical/gynecological and social services, educational workshops and some of the programs also offer drop in services such as laundry, shower, food, creative workshops and legal services. STAR-STAR, the macedonian sex worker led organisation, is among mentioned programs funded by Global Fund, they also do outreach work and run info-line for referrals to other existing services.

Thanks to harm reduction programs, only two new HIV cases have been recorded in Macedonia in the last ten years as a result of drugs injecting, and less than 5% of 315 registered cases of HIV were people who inject drugs. There are zero HIV cases recorded among sex workers. These figures are far smaller than the neighboring countries. Macedonia can boast with the lowest HIV rate in Southeast Europe, but if these programs are not implemented, there is a risk of HIV epidemics as a result of interaction with the epidemics in neighboring countries and the possibility of increasing risk behaviors.

HOPS calls the Macedonian Government to financially support the harm reduction programmes through the state budget, therefore remaining a country with low prevalence of HIV and a country that cares about all its citizens.  

Sign the petition for supporting Harm Reduction Programs in Republic of Macedonia here.

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