The first Harm reduction programme in Macedonia was initiated in 1996, and since then a total of 17 programmes have been developed in 13 cities across the country. These programmes provide complementary services integrated at one spot, including needle exchange, condoms, basic medical services, social support, HIV and Hepatitis C testing, as well as free-of-charge legal support. Because of these characteristics, the programmes are recognised as good practices in the region and much wider. Many study visits have been hosted in Macedonia, whereby participants from different countries have visited the services operated by HOPS in Skopje to learn how to develop a successful harm reduction programme.
It is due to these programmes that in the last 10 years only two new HIV cases have occurred because of injecting drug use, amounting to less than 5 % of the total 315 diagnosed HIV cases in Macedonia since the beginning of the epidemic. The situation is much different in the countries neighbouring Macedonia, and in comparison, Macedonia has the lowest HIV rate in the region of South-East Europe.
Despite this, aside from the City of Skopje co-financing one drop-in, all harm reduction programmes and related activities in Macedonia are funded by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, whose support ends in June 2017.
At the moment, the sustainability of those harm reduction programmes is at risk because of a lack of national and local financial commitments beyond the exit of the Global Fund. This means that over 10,000 people who use drugs will be left without adequate health and social care. For that reason, HOPS along with the Platform on Sustainability composed of 16 Civil Society Organisations, have launched the campaign “With key decisions towards healthy community” targeted at decision makers and the public. Hopes are that the Macedonian Government will financially support the harm reduction programmes through the state budget, therefore remaining a country with low prevalence of HIV and a country that cares about all its citizens, including people who use drugs and their families.
Sign up here the petition for supporting Harm Reduction Programs in Republic of Macedonia.