Harm reduction during the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran

Authors: Hamidreza Karimi-Sari, Heidar Sharafi,Mohammad Saeid Rezaee-Zavareh,and Seyed Moayed Alavian

Similar to other countries, Iran experienced unavoidable changes in the national harm reduction programme during the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes were made due to new policies from the Ministry of Health regarding physical distancing to stop the disease spreading. During the COVID-19 pandemic, drop-in centres were closed and no longer offered services such as HIV testing, catering, and bathing; however, they still delivered methadone behind closed doors. Moreover, shelters were working 24 h a day and providing methadone as an add-on activity.

We assessed the advantages and disadvantages of the new policies by interviewing people who use drugs at an outdoor area near the Rah-Ahan district of Tehran, Iran. The interviews were done on April 21, 2020.

Iranian drop-in centres provide opioid agonist treatments, primarily methadone maintenance therapy.2 During the COVID-19 outbreak, the closed drop-in centres continued to provide opioid agonist treatment to people who use drugs to maintain their main harm reduction activity. Individuals reported that methadone was as available as before the COVID-19 outbreak or even more available, because the centres were providing up to one week’s dose at a time, compared with daily dispensing of methadone before the outbreak. Some individuals reported that they would have reverted to illegal drugs in the absence of the methadone provided at the drop-in centre.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, as a temporary policy, clients could not enter, gather together, or sit inside drop-in centres. The centres are seen as safe places where individuals feel respected and are not tempted by seeing other people using drugs. Closure of the centres led to local hangouts for people who use drugs becoming more crowded, and individuals reported being tempted to use drugs when they saw others injecting drugs nearby.

تاریخ انتشار اولیه: ۲ مرداد ۱۳۹۹
تاریخ رصد: ۲۸ مرداد ۱۳۹۹



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