Coverage: Chittagong City
HIV/AIDS remains at a relatively low prevalence rate in Bangladesh , even among at risk populations like sex workers. However the exception lies in Injecting Drug Users (IDU). According to the World Bank, 70 per cent of IDU share needles, and 83 per cent have Hepatitis C. As previous studies have shown, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) often leave vulnerable groups at a high risk of HIV/AIDS. YPSA, a leading organization in Chittagong regarding the HIV/AIDS arena, worked specifically with Injecting Drug Users and heroin smokers as a means to prevent the potential spread of HIV/AIDS in Bangladesh .
YPSA opened four drop in centers for drug users in the Parhatali, Bandartila, Chawkbazar and Madarbari area. They attempted to bring about positive change in risky behaviours in drug users, and raise awareness among the targeted population about sexual health and drug abuse through the following activities:
1. Capacity Building
Building the skills of people working directly with drug users ensured a sensitive and safe space for the targeted group:
Training peer educators to reach out to the drug user community
Monitoring and Evaluation training that increased staff competence
Program introduction training for staff at the field level
Rapid Situation Assessment Orientation
Awareness raising and available resources were an important part to reaching out to the drug user community:
Free STI service and treatment
Detoxification camps for drug users
condom promotion (53 per cent of drug users were shown to have unprotected sex)
Awareness raising through one to one contact and group sessions
Harm Reduction method that included the distribution of syringes and needles, and collecting used ones
3. Advocacy and Networking
Advocacy meetings were held with various departments and groups to ensure smoother cooperation in the community:
Meetings with the Department of Narcotics Control
Meetings with NGOs and rehabilitation centers
Advocacy meetings at the drop in centers for local government representatives, teachers, religious leaders, drug users, etc.
In the short amount of time that the project ran, 1430 drug users utilized the drop in centers on a regular basis. 158 drug users received STI treatment, and 78 peer educators were trained. 4171 free condoms, 508 syringes and 89 needles were distributed so that safe practices could be ensued. Two detoxification camps addressed the mental addiction and problems of drug users.
According to the Rapid Situation Assessment, total drug users were estimated to be 4,014. YPSA was able to cover 2,971 drug users through its one to one contact and group sessions.
Due to funding cuts, the project was terminated in 2004. Drug users remain a hidden and neglected group. Working with them is a challenge because there is a certain amount of hindrance from drug sellers, and landlords who are unwilling to rent space for drop in centers. YPSA will not give up on this population, as they are a group extremely vulnerable to STIs, HIV/AIDS and require much attention. YPSA hopes to gain funding to recommence the Drug User Intervention project.
Supporting Organization: CARE Bangladesh