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May 29, 2009

Thai Advocates Push for Harm Reduction for IV-Drug Users

The Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) is urging Thailand’s government to create a voluntary, comprehensive harm reduction program for intravenous drug users, (IDUs), The Nation reports. The program would provide clean injection equipment to reduce the risk of HIV transmission; it would also offer harm reduction education, antiretroviral therapy for HIV-positive IDUs and opiate substitution therapy using methadone.

According to Thailand’s Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai, the country’s current methadone programs have reduced the rate of HIV infection among IDUs; due to their success, the nation should receive additional funding from UNAIDS. Karyn Kaplan, TTAG’s director of development and policy, acknowledges that methadone programs do exist in Thailand but points out that health care workers often deny treatment to IDUs and many are jailed without medication.

“We want leadership from the government to implement the international standards of medical treatment for injecting drug users, without discrimination and human right violations,” Kaplan said.

The Public Health Ministry reports that about 1 million Thais contracted HIV during the past 20 years and that 550,000 of them are still alive. Additionally, the health ministry estimates that 11,750 people in Thailand will contract HIV this year, with sex being the most common transmission route.

Search: Thailand, intravenous drug users, UNAIDS, TTAG, methadone, harm reduction

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