Chennai: The launch of the South Indian Harm
Reduction Network (SIHRN) in Chennai heralds a welcome initiative
for people dependent on drugs, especially those living with HIV
and AIDS in the Southern States.
There is a serious concern in the southern states of India over
under reporting numbers of people injecting drugs and infected
Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been delivering services for drug
injectors for many years now, and injecting epidemics have been
reported more recently in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Civil Society and Community Organizations stated their concern
over the numbers of deaths being reported and the lack of
facilities for care and support currently available through
national and state administered services.
The current services for HIV management through needle syringe
exchange programs and medication for replacing illicit or grey
market opiates have been largely successful but they are simply
The challenge of co-morbidities including the presence of TB and
Hepatitis C along with HIV require wider access to health systems
There is also a huge demand for medically assisted detoxification
and rehabilitation services and a scale up of the fledging Opioid
Substitution Treatment Programs in the region.
It is in this context that the South Indian Harm Reduction Network
that has been launched has a huge role to play.
In a freewheeling interview with A. Sankar, Convener, SIHRN and L.
Samson, President, SIHRN, the goals and objectives of the new
organization was spelled out.
SIHRN aspires to bring ownership of treatment to affected
communities. It wants to mainstream services that include wider
health care, psycho-social support, reintegration related to
employment, family support and legal aid, Sankar said.
SIHRN wants to register state level networks that will work
closely with state governments and the affected communities. It
also wants to strengthen services for people injecting drugs under
States AIDS Control Societies. SIHRN likes to advocate for an
improved quality of life for drug dependent people, Sankar
L. Samson, President, SIHRN said the challenge is to keep people
secure in access to various types of treatment. SIHRN resolve to
widen the scope of services to draw together agendas such as
homelessness and drug treatment with the key stakeholders managing
HIV and AIDS services for people injecting drugs.
Counseling is the glue that will hold the populations adherent to
services, as optimism is required to counter the despair felt by
the severe stigma and discrimination experienced at mainstream
health services, and the abuse on the streets by ill informed law
enforcers, Mr. Samson concluded.
The meeting of South Indian Harm Reduction Network SIHRN was held
under the auspices of the Indian Harm Reduction on January 28,
2012 in Chennai. It was supported by Sharan, a NGO working on
HIV/AIDS in India.
The meet was coordinated by Indian Community Welfare Organization-I.C.W.O,
a NGO based in Chennai. More details on this can be obtained from A.J. Hariharan of ICWO, who can be contacted at
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org