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People who use drugs (PWUD) are often not considered valid policy or service partners in issues that directly affect their lives. However, UHRN recognizes that PWUD are part of the solution and should not be seen as the problem. UHRN works to support the meaningful participation and community mobilization of PWUD.

People who use drugs (PWUD) face high levels of stigma and social exclusion and they may not be considered either worthy or capable of participating in high-level policy discussions, even though these have a direct impact on their lives. However, the latest developments in the region, including the campaigning by drug user groups to be heard, have demonstrated that HIV prevention can only take place among people who inject drugs (PWID) if they are meaningfully involved in the process of designing, implementing and evaluating harm reduction policy and services.

In 2001, governments endorsed the UN General Assembly’s Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS which calls for the greater involvement of people living with HIV; this principle is now generally applied to other key populations affected by HIV, including PWID. However, EHRN has identified that meaningful engagement of PWUD in decision-making processes in the region remains very low. Lack of access to relevant information, isolation, and discrimination are all barriers to creating a conducive environment for PWUD to effectively engage in decision-making processes.

UHRN has a sustained and longstanding commitment to the meaningful involvement and mobilization of PWUD. Firstly, UHRN has modeled a participative approach in its own internal governance and project delivery systems; this has led to PWUD participating directly in the activities of UHRN and operating as consultants on consultation and development projects. Secondly, UHRN has supported drug user groups directly through small grants fundS; these small grants enabled the development of practical resources and capacity for drug user groups to undertake focused work and to build their advocacy and campaigning abilities. 

UHRN calls on harm reduction services to recognize drug user groups as key partners and to meaningfully engage people who use drugs in the design, delivery and review of harm reduction services. EHRN invites people who use drugs to build partnerships with harm reduction services and to develop drug user networks at a regional and national level.