A project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
Fact Sheets can be downloaded from the Internet at http://www.aidsinfonet.org
AIDS InfoNet www.aidsinfonet.org
Fact Sheet Number 155
HARM REDUCTION AND HIV
WHAT IS HARM REDUCTION?
Harm reduction is a way of dealing with
behavior that damages the health of the
person involved and of their community.
individual and community health.
Much of the work on harm reduction
has been in connection with drug use.
This fact sheet focuses on harm
reduction applied to drug use and HIV.
Some key points of harm reduction:
• Drug use won’t disappear but its
harmful effects can be reduced. Harm
reduction should be a goal for service
organizations and governments.
• Some drugs are safer than others.
Some ways of using drugs are less
harmful than others.
• Drug users can best reduce the
harm of their own drug use.
• Abstinence is the ultimate goal.
However, it is also good to reduce drug
use and drug-related deaths, disease
• The criminal
should not be the only method for
dealing with drug use. Combining it with
a public health approach is more
• Services for drug users should be
non-judgmental. They should not force
people to receive services.
HARM REDUCTION IN ACTION
Harm reduction related to drug use
• Teaching drug users about the risks
of different drugs and their use.
information on using
drugs more safely, and reducing the
harm of overdoses.
for heroin and offering
to counteract a drug
• Offering education and referral to
drug treatment opportunities.
• Permitting drug users to exchange
used syringes for new ones, or buy new
• Providing outreach services
areas where drug sales occur.
There is research to support several
harm reduction approac