The women-centric harm reduction site at the Kapurthala Civil Hospital, Punjab since the start of the lockdown had initiated the implementation of take-home doses of Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) to support women registered at this centre supported by Alliance India. Though this has helped many women in continuation of their treatment, the lockdown has resulted in the disruption of the usual point of care for women who use drugs because of effective isolation from peer-support. Looking at the challenges faced by women who use drugs and particularly those who inject, the peer educators under the programme have initiated follow-up with the women through telephonic contact, in case they require emergency services like food rations or an immediate response to overdose.
One of the priority needs that the communities highlighted was the provision of needles and syringes for women not on the OST programme and currently using drugs as their access was curtailed due to the lockdown related travel restrictions. The peer educators were guided by our Harm Reduction team to devise plans in collaboration with the Kapurthala based targeted intervention project (Sahyog Charitable Trust) to act as secondary distribution “peers” for needle and syringes deeming it as an essential service during these times.
“Take home dose is there, but some women need more, they are trying new things, as it is getting difficult for them to get their usual drugs to inject. I keep on calling them, asking about their health and family, this way at least I could keep an eye on them and provide emergency assistance or refer them in case of overdose’’, states Veena Rani, a peer educator, at the Alliance India supported, Women-Centric Harm Reduction Programme, co-located at Kapurthala’s, District Hospital.
The several leadership and capacity building training events that the peer educators have been able to participate in, enabled them to think beyond regular project implementation frameworks and consider the priorities in ensuring access to uninterrupted harm reduction services even while working from home.
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