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Tipping the Balance: Why Legal Services are Essential to Health Care for Drug Users in Ukraine

The International Harm Reduction Development Program (IHRD) and the Law and Health Initiative (LAHI) of the Open Society Institute (OSI) Public Health Program support the work of public health advocates and service providers in delivering legal services to people who use drugs.  This unique intervention is based on the philosophy that people who use drugs cannot gain maximum benefit from harm reduction services unless these services are coupled with legal support to address discrimination, police violence, and other human rights violations.

Ukraine has a well-developed and growing network of agencies designed to help people reduce drug-related harm by ensuring access to sterile syringes, assistance with social services, and linkages to substance abuse treatment programs, including buprenorphine treatment.  While Ukraine has made significant progress in HIV prevention and treatment among those who inject drugs, greater funding and political commitment for legal services is needed to stem the spread of HIV.

There has been no systematic attempt to document the impact of such services on the health and well-being of people who use drugs. There is, however, extensive anecdotal evidence from drug users attesting to the benefits of legal services.  This report is intended to help legal services and harm reduction programs better protect drug users from pervasive human rights abuses and negative health risks, and to encourage the government of Ukraine to scale up and strengthen the harm reduction and legal services components of the country’s HIV prevention and treatment strategies.


Resource Tags

Resource Type: Practitioner Resources Issues: Generalist Legal Services, Health, HIV/Aids, Legal Aid & Public Interest Law Tool Type: Reports / Research Languages: English Regions: Europe Nature of Impact: Acquisition of Remedy / Entitlement / Information, Citizen Action & Participation, Legal Knowledge and Skills Scale of Intervention/Impact: 1,000 to 10,000 people Institutions Engaged: Local Court, NGOs, Police Evaluation Method: Interviews