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Jun 22, 2008

The Canadian Harm Reduction Network and Canadian AIDS Society Launch a New Report on Harm Reduction in Canada

18 June 2008

The Canadian AIDS Society and the Canadian AIDS Society, in partnership, have launched a new publication entitled "Learning from Each Other:

Enhancing Community-Based Harm Reduction Programs and Practices in Canada." The report is the culmination of a 17-month-long study based on the findings of a harm reduction symposium and a series of focus groups, site visits and community walkabouts in nine medium-sized cities across Canada. The study was funded by the federal government's Drug Strategy Community Initiatives Fund.

"The recent judgment on the operation of Insite, Vancouver's safe injections site, reminds us that harm reduction services are fundamental healthcare rights and that to deny such services is in effect an infringement of the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Our report shows how Canadian harm reduction programs are vital to our communities through their service to a population that is often marginalized and alienated," says Monique Doolittle-Romas, Executive Director of the Canadian AIDS Society.

"These programs are making a valuable difference in people's lives and to society by helping protect the health and well-being of those most in need. They typically do this under the constraints of insufficient or insecure funding."

Targeted to health care professionals, outreach workers and service providers working in the field of harm reduction in Canada, the report highlights how various programs were developed and implemented, the challenges encountered and the lessons learned along the way. It also
provides in-depth testimony from people with drug-use experience about what works well, what does not, the impact that harm reduction programs and services have on their lives, and what can be done to improve programs.

"People who work in harm reduction and people who use drugs told us at various meetings that they don't know what is happening in other cities. The need for information sharing is critical," says Gail Flintoft, Chair of the Board of the Canadian AIDS Society. "We took this project on so that people don't have to recreate the wheel. Sharing this information will enhance harm
reduction services by enabling people to learn from each other's experiences."

"Service providers and service users alike told us that having information about the 'unknown' harm reduction - what goes on outside the major cities across Canada - would help them save both lives and money, said Walter Cavalieri Director of the Canadian Harm Reduction Network.
"Now they have it."

The report shows how community and health care organizations prevent harms related to drug use, primarily the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C. It also portrays the holistic underpinnings of the programs which cater to both the basic health and emotional well-being of people who use drugs.

Most importantly, the report shows the human side of harm reduction, including the perspectives from the many people harm reduction programs serve, in their own words. It's a celebration of the dedicated harm reduction pioneers and proponents who are working to protect the lives of people who use drugs. Often discussing issues beyond harm reduction, it also
provides a compelling glance at societal challenges, including poverty, homelessness and gentrification in urban centres.

The report can be accessed, in English and French, on the websites of the Canadian Harm Reduction Network at

and the Canadian AIDS Society at:

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