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Expert Q&A: What is “Harm Reduction”?

, by San Francisco AIDS Foundation

Mike Discepola - a Harm Reduction expertHere in San Francisco, and across the U.S. and around the globe, substance use fuels the HIV epidemic. But quitting alcohol or other drugs cold turkey isn’t the right solution for everyone at every time in their lives, as San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Michael Discepola explains in the March issue of Status, the foundation’s monthly newsletter.

People often drink and use drugs to cope with anxiety, depression, and painful or traumatic experiences; as Discepola observes, “taking the drug or alcohol away without helping them deal with the problems that led to the substance use in the first place is not very humane.”

An innovative substance use treatment model known as “harm reduction” is offering the foundation’s clients new options—and new hope—and helping them reduce their risk for getting or passing on HIV. Take a look at the Q&A, excerpted below and featured in full at sfaf.org, and see why Discepola says, “we believe that there’s hope for everybody.”

What is “Harm Reduction”?

What we mean when we say “harm reduction” is basically any positive step in a direction for improved health and wellness. That can mean that somebody who is using a lot of drugs or alcohol starts drinking more water or getting better nutrition. It can mean the difference between someone working their life so they can be stably housed, versus having a drug or alcohol problem and being on the street.

Harm reduction may sound very foreign as a concept, but when you look around, you see people making these decisions all the time; for instance, they’ll have a couple glasses of wine, but they’ll have a glass of water in between. People implement harm reduction in many ways….

Get the full Q&A at sfaf.org.

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