Presenting author: Anekpong Chanthaweesirirat
Presenting author biography:
Anekpong Chanthaweesirirat has worked at Raks Thai foundation as a program officer in PWID for 1 year. Harm Reduction is the way of sustainability for all drug users.
Stepping up Harm Reduction in Thailand through CBO Agility, Innovation and Commitment
Raks Thai Foundation, the Civil Society Principle Recipient under the Global Fund support project Stop TB and AIDS through RRTTPR year 2021-2023 (STAR 2021-23) cooperated with 6 Community Based Organizations (CBO). This was mainly through outreach workers operating in 20 provinces that were identified as having significant populations of PWID.
The project has had to overcome challenges. Four of the CBOs were newly formed local groups since 2021, distribution of safe injection kits is considered illegal, outreach workers, many who are PWID, have to avoid being arrested while enroute to visit clients. The COVID-19 pandemic became an additional barrier in attempting to reach clients. Many of the sites are located in the remote hilly areas of northern Thailand bordering Myanmar and Laos or in the deep south where there has been the ongoing terrorism by separatist groups.
In response, many of the CBOs members have begun using online reach/services, negotiated for done for extended take-home methadone, several CBO are setting up community-based methadone services, additional C-Free sites for HCV services have been added, the project has started to use Oral Fluid HIV testing newly introduced in Thailand, advocacy for harm reduction space has started up with the new 2021 Drug Law. Finally, a new data system has been developed and started up to enable in depth data analysis.
During October 2021 - September 2022, the PWIDs 17,745 were reached, 79.4% against target, 88.3% male, 11.6% female and 0.1% transgender women. 4,587 PWID were HIV tested or 25.8% of reach. The number of needle & syringe units distributed directly to PWID was 774,775 or 77% of the annual target. Although community engagement for PWIDs is a challenge in Thailand, the increased program agility, innovation and CBO commitment is showing to major progress for reaching and supporting PWID.