In 2016, the civil society in Tajikistan carried out an evaluation of cost-effectiveness and quality of syringe exchange (SEP) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) programs. The results were a call to action on strengthening of partnerships within and between countries to ensure sustainable financing for harm reduction programs.
On 28 April, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network is launching a workshop dubbed "The Best Practices of Interaction between Medical Staff, NGOs and OST Community" in Dushanbe (Tajikistan), aimed at representatives of NGOs and OST clients. Leading experts, coaches and consultants on harm reduction, community mobilization and advocacy will share experience and assess prospects of intersectoral interaction with NGO representatives, client communities and OST program staff.
What sets the seminar apart is not just the high level of activity and audience involvement (five case studies are expected to be presented, joint consultations and group discussions are planned), but also the extent of the coverage, as workshops will be held in four cities of the country (Dushanbe, Khorugh, Kulob and Khujand) up to the 7th of May.
"Reporting on the work done and providing examples of effective implementation of OST is an intrinsic part of this meeting. We expect it to provide the participants with more than just theoretical data from reports. We hope it will give them practical guidelines for action in their sector, be it the potential of NGOs, communities or medical services," says Olga Belyaeva, the manager of the Community and EHRN Members Capacity Building Team and one of the coaches at the seminar.
To promote live discussion and reach general conclusions on most pressing issues, data has been prepared on the potential and the specifics of interaction between the three sectors (NGOs, the OST clients’ community and OST staff). The participants will also work to identify the barriers and find ways to remove them using the regulatory and legal framework that already exists in Central Asian countries, and drawing on experience of other countries in the region and in Eastern Europe. Interestingly, special attention will be paid to the issues of medical care and counselling as part of substitution therapy programs, take-home maintenance medications, "hospital at home" and distribution of prescription drugs. The seminar is attended by leading experts - Tynchtykbek Asanov (head of the Institute of Personality and Mental Health for Science and Education, psychiatrist, candidate of medical sciences), Dmitry Chekhov (member of the Board of Ukrainian NGO "Association of Substitute Therapy of Ukraine", pediatrician, Specialist of Voluntary Counseling and Testing).
"It seems to us that the significance of the involvement of civil society in harm reduction programs (obviously, in the context of substitution treatment as well) doesn’t require advocacy. It seems natural and correct. But it’s also obvious that the interaction between civil society representatives can help assess and influence the quality of OST services, as well as financial support for such programs. "The Best Practices of Interaction between Medical Staff, NGOs and OST Community" will confirm it, "says Olga Belyaeva.
The seminar is held as part of the technical assistance offered by the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network to the “Harm Reduction Works – Fund It!” Regional Program, and is financially supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.