Ms Tara Garady the National Psychosocial Coordinator of TB/HIV Care , joined Benito Vergotine on The Honest Truth to tell us more about the Step up Project.
Listen to the conversation here: Harm reduction’ approach to drug use supports
The Western Cape MEC for Health, Prof Nomafrench Mbombo, opened a drop-in centre for
people who inject drugs in central Cape Town on Wednesday, the 4th
December 2019. The centre, run by NGO TB HIV Care’s Step Up Project, is part of a recent approach to people who use drugs that seeks to reduce the harms associated with disordered substance use instead of demanding
abstinence. The Step Up Project has already provided support to over 900 people in the greater
People who inject drugs are at particular risk for blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis
B and C, as well as facing the dangers that come with social marginalisation as a result of the
criminalisation of drug use. The Step Up Project aims to reduce these risks by providing a
package of wellness services which includes sterile injecting equipment, opioid substitution
therapy, HIV testing and screening, and psychosocial services.
The drop-in centre itself is not new. A similar space has been operating in Woodstock for the past
two years. However the new location in central Cape Town brings the services closer to the
people accessing them, many of whom are living on the streets of Cape Town’s inner city.
The teams have had more than 10 000 contacts with service beneficiaries, which range from
providing health education to testing people for HIV and starting them on antiretroviral treatment.
Nearly 9000 ‘harm reduction packs’, which contain sterile injecting equipment, have been
‘That may seem like a lot of needles in the environment, but we need to think of each of them as a
potential infection averted.’ Said Prof Harry Hausler, CEO of TB HIV Care, at the launch ‘Our
clients are also provided with portable ‘sharps’ containers to store their used needles safely until
they can return them to us and we undertake regular outreaches to pick up used needles that
have been discarded inappropriately.”
Speaking about the importance of reaching vulnerable populations, which will enable South Africa
to reach goal three of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs 2017-2022 ‘leave no one
behind’ as well as echoing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda which
“endeavour(s) to reach the furthest behind first.”, MEC Mbombo mentioned the strides the
Western Cape has made in reaching marginalised groups such as people who inject drugs, as
well as sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgendered people and inmates in
Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International NGO dedicated to
reducing the negative impacts of drug use and drug policy, commented on how encouraged the
international community is by developments in subSaharan Africa, “To see government
represented in the room today, supporting this initiative, is inspiring.”