Uganda Harm Reduction Programmes

Human Rights and Advocacy

We advocate against human rights abuses committed in the name of drug control and promote the full realization of the human rights of people who use drugs and those affected by drug use, the drug trade and drug policies. Our vision of a human rights-based approach to drug policies is based on ethical, legal and public health grounds.

From an ethical perspective, no one should be denied their human rights due to drug use, drug dependence or because they have been convicted of a crime. Our work is about the reduction of drug related harms without judgment and with respect for the inherent dignity of everyone, regardless of whether they use drugs (licit or illicit).

We promote the application of international human rights law to drug policies and for the interpretation and implementation of the international drug conventions in full compliance with international human rights law. Human rights law serves as a counter-balance to international and national drug control laws that can and do act as barriers to the reduction of drug related harm and to the realization of the rights of people who use drugs and affected communities.

Health – HIV/AIDS education and prevention

Targeted intervention (TI) project


·        To focus our HIV transmission prevention efforts on the highest-risk groups, namely truckers, workers (SWs), men who have sex with men (MSMs), substance Drug users and intravenous drug users (IDUs)

UHRN has been implementing a comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention programme through targeted interventions with the mobile population of truckers and their families since 2011 we have been working with injecting drug users; SWs, MSMs, the transgender population and young people.


·        Counseling for STDs/HIV/AIDS prevention

·        Condom promotion

·        Awareness generation regarding STDs/HIV/AIDS through Behavior Change Communication session i.e. One to One and One to Group, Audio visual shows, Street outreaches, Sensitization Programmes and various   other methods.

·        Counseling for improving couple relationship

·        Counseling on issues related with sex and sexuality

·        Peer education

·        Partner management

·        Referral network and linkages with drug demand reduction programs, HIV testing, DOTS and various other care & support services.

Research and capacity building


·        To develop the capacity of the service providers, Drug users who are working in the area of drug demand reduction & HIV/AIDS.


·        Identification of the training needs, and the provision of this training

·        Organization of advocacy networks

·        Initiation of the convergence and integration of services for better delivery of services from NGOs and the government

·        Region-by-region assessment of the general vulnerability to drug abuse and HIV/AIDS

·        Capacity building (in IT, counseling, documentation, etc.)

·        Exposure visits to various best-practiced projects in sub-Sahara Africa

·        Preparation of training and education materials (like flip charts, resource books,   exhibition panels) and translation of this material into regional languages

·        Assessment of training needs among and working in the area of drugs and HIV/AIDS in Uganda With this information, UHRN develops and the development of training modules for the capacity building of service

·        Monitoring the trends of drug abuse and HIV in the whole Regions of Uganda

·        Creation of behavior communications change materials e.g exhibition panels, flip charts, guide book on peer education and communication, Resource books on harm reduction for HIV/AIDS prevention among IDUs and HIV/AIDS & preventive options etc.) On drugs, HIV/AIDS and sexual health issues.

·        Exposure visits to various best-practiced projects in the region

·        Initiation of the convergence and integration of services for better delivery of services from NGOs and the government.

Responsive rehabilitation services

We recognize that substance abuse is a widespread affliction; the personal, social and economic costs are borne by the individual and the community as a whole. Drug dependency leads to productivity loss, domestic violence, depletion of family resources, increased street crime, etc. To address this menace,


·        To provide a well-formulated de-addiction and rehabilitation program covering motivational counseling, detoxification, sustained rehabilitation, relapse prevention and after-care.


·        Psychotherapy, family work and recreational therapy

·        Home visits

·        Individual/group counseling and family counseling

·        Input sessions

·        Counseling and de-addiction Places

·        Anti-drug film shows

Activities·        Doctor consultations and referrals to other free medical services

·        Referrals to ICTC for blood tests

·        Abscess treatment

·        Mobile exhibitions, for the sensitization of the local population concerning drug use, STIs and HIV/AIDS

·        Educational games

·        Condom education and distribution

·        Counseling and follow-up visits for drug users

·        A consistent monitoring program for drug users, to ensure a successful treatment regime

Harm Reduction Education

Harm reduction can be defined as policies, programmes and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption.  Harm reduction benefits drug users, their families and the community’.

One of the basic principles underlying this approach is that people have always used drugs, and will use drugs, and as such there will never be a drug-free society.  Harm reduction accepts that some people who use drugs are often unable or unwilling to stop, and seeks to provide care, support and resources in a non-judgmental environment.  The most humane, compassionate and effective approach is therefore to attempt to alleviate the worst of the harms associated with drug use.

Harm reduction promotes safer use and options that help to minimize the risks from drug use and of causing harm to themselves or others, without requiring the cessation of use. It is a pragmatic approach that is based in public health and human rights. There is a large and ever growing body of evidence that demonstrates harm reduction as an effective approach for preventing drug related harms including HIV, Hepatitis C, and overdose.  In addition to individual benefits, harm reduction interventions also benefit the community, for example by reducing crime.

Harm reduction in practice

There are a number of examples of harm reduction in practice.  Some interventions include, but are not limited to:

  • Information: providing honest, non-judgmental information on how to reduce risk of harms associated with drug use.
  • Needle exchange programmes: providing sterile needles and other injecting equipment to people who inject drugs.
  • Pill testing: screening drugs for dangerous adulterants and thus reducing the risks of accidently ingesting these substances.
  • Overdose prevention: Including information on overdose causes, recognizing, and what to do, and distribution of naloxone, an emergency antidote for people who overdose on opioids.
  • Safer crack kits: Include materials to prevent the harms associated with smoking crack, in particular to reduce the risk of burned or cracked lips and the associated risk of becoming infected with blood-borne viruses such as HCV and HIV.

Harm reduction and young people  

Despite overwhelming evidence of its effectiveness in reducing drug related harm, harm reduction approaches are yet to be accepted as a viable and effective way to reduce harms among youth.  The predominant approach to drug use among young people remains drug prevention, ‘just say no to drugs’ campaigns, forced treatment and law enforcement.  UHRN believes a more balanced approach is urgently needed, which involves non-judgmental service provision and which recognizes the need to reduce harms among young people who use drugs


Uganda Harm Reduction Network (UHRN) is a Community Based Organisation, established in 2011, Reg No. WCBO/1253/11, found by former drug users, to provide a national platform and reduce the health, social and economic harms associated with “drug use”. We further seek to develop an enabling environment for the implementation and expansion of human right interventions for Drug Users (IDUs, Sex Workers and Youth) in Uganda in partnerships with other stakeholders as we strive for victory. Vision: “A Ugandan society that reorganizes and protects the health, social, economic and human rights of drug users”. Mission: “To reduce the health, social and economic harms associated with drug use to develop an enabling environment for the implementation and expansion of human right interventions for drug users in Uganda. Objectives: We work to: • Promote access to cancer screening, psychosocial support and comprehensive care (HIV, SRHR, TB, and Hepatitis B and C treatment). • Organize and equip drug users whose rights have been violated to take responsibility of their health, social, economic wellbeing and sustainability through economic empowerment trainings and functional adult literacy programmes. • Document and expose human rights violations against drug users and call for legal protection and engage in policy reforms on laws that negatively impact on drug users. • Build partnership, synergy and develop the leadership capacity of drug users to take charge of their program. • Promote the health, social economic and human rights of “drug users” in Uganda irrespective of their social, economic, academic, cultural or political background. • Promote safer sex education such as condom use, needle and syringe exchange program, comprehensive care and mechanism on how to deal with issues of overdose, trafficking and violence against drug users. • Call for an enabling environment and strengthen partnerships towards “drug users”. Core values for UHRN: The driving forces that guide all actions and practices in UHRN are:- • Social justice, protection and recognition in society • Love and respect for one another. • Support and care for one another • Honesty in all our undertakings • Empathy for each other as drug users • Sharing the available resources.

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