Presenting author: NILAWAN PITAKPANAWONG
Presenting author biography:
NILAWAN PITAKPANAWONG is an ethnic group who worked in HIV for 10 years and 2 years for PWID population.I think that Methadone therapy is important to help ethnic group who use heroine and opium.
Mobile Methadone Therapy for Drug Users Within Ethnic Groups in Fang District, Chiangmai, Thailand
Issue : The Northern region of Thailand bordering with Myanmar is known for the several ethnic populations. Ethnic groups have been using opium for treating illnesses such as stomachache, diarrhea or as a pain killer and to ease work fatigue. Youth begin to use drugs following their friends, while others resort to drugs to solve personal problems.
Several drug users want to take up methadone therapy. Methadone therapy requires continuous treatment which is a challenge for interested users. The distance between the ethnic group villages in the hills and the governmental methadone services. Most drug users are poor without vehicles, so regular long-distance travel is a huge obstacle. transportation can be costly and public transportation is not readily available. This leads to the treatment discontinuation.
The Project : Thai Drug Users’ Network covering 6 districts of Chiang Mai. Outreach workers are ex- or current drug users. Drug users are identified, educated about harm reduction, safe drug use and drug harm towards oneself and family, HIV, STI, and HCV. Clean equipment is offered.
Mobile methadone therapy services brings methadone to drug users at the villages. Health officers visit the communities and provide the service. This reduces discontinuous treatment and helps people who cannot travel to receive the treatment.
Results: In 2022, 118 clients received free methadone therapy from government health services, and 80% of whom were from ethnic groups. Some worked on their farms while others are earning money to spend on their families. Some users reduced heroin injections from 5 to 1 or 2 per day.
As a result, they had more money to spend on other things, their health improved, and they had better family lives. Once drug users in the community began to have a better life, other drug users became motivated to receive treatment.