A Training Manual for the Harm Reduction Champions in the Faith-Based Community

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In 2018, in collaboration with the United Religions Initiative (URI), India HIV/AIDS Alliance under HRAsia grant of the Global Fund, launched a unique initiative to build bridges between harm reduction and faith-based communities called ‘Faith For Harm Reduction’. Faith for Harm Reduction is one of its kind programme in India dedicated to building capacity and mobilizing community at the intersection of harm reduction and faith-based assemblies. Born from conversations with communities of faith, harm reduction organizations, and network of people who use drugs, #Faith4HarmReduction fulfils a unique role as convener, community mobiliser, and capacity builder, fostering innovative-and previously untapped-cross-sector collaborations to expand and strengthen harm reduction in principle, practice, and policy.

People who use drugs and their fundamental rights are largely being outdistanced. Too often, these rights are being denied, which adds to the barriers in their access to essential health and harm reduction services. We have learnt that criminalization of people who use drugs helps to fuel stigma, discrimination, abuse and other violations of rights in many settings, including the healthcare system. For many people who use drugs, this creates a significant barrier to accessing services while perpetuating mental health issues that may, in turn, lead to situations and behaviours that increase drug users’ vulnerability to HIV.

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About the Faith For Harm Reduction Manual

The manual is the first step that intertwines the concepts of righteousness, insaniyat (humanity) and sewa (service) found widely across all religions to theologically highlight the narrative of harm reduction in various faith traditions. Within the framework of righteousness, most faith traditions tend to prevent or undermine the use of drugs. This is not because of its association to committing a sinful act and internalising the moral and cultural context; but for reasons of health, wellbeing and peace. The quality of righteousness is, therefore, taken by the individual in a way that their necessary and indispensable acts fulfil their responsibility towards self and society. The manual will be pilot tested in India initially. Subsequently, it will be adapted and circulated in the Asia region using e-learning and other opportunities through the virtual platforms.

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The Launch of Faith for Harm Reduction Manual

Alliance India, United Religions Initiatives and eminent faith-based institutions supported by the Global Fund launched the Faith for Harm Reduction Manual, a training module for sensitising faith-based communities on health and rights-based approaches to drug use. The event had a mix of both online and offline participation, owing to the COVID-19 situation we avoided a large gathering, however, we received encouraging participation from eminent faith leaders, law makers, the Global Fund, UN and other development partners.

You can watch the video below to virtually witness the launch of the #Faith4HarmReduction Manual in New Delhi on 23 October 2020.

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