“The measure of a country’s greatness should be based on how well it cares for its most vulnerable populations.” unknown

This is a busy week for me. I have my proposal assignment due in exactly 1 week for school, the harm reduction gala and symposium is happening next Friday & Saturday. I have been working with the best interdisciplinary team on making this symposium a reality this past winter and I am so excited it is happening.

What is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction “refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop. The defining features are the focus on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself, and the focus on people who continue to use drugs” (https://www.hri.global/what-is-harm-reduction). The concept of harm reduction can be applied to teaching safer sex (rather than abstinence) to young people and those who practice high risk sexual activities.

This is my passion in Nursing. Over the years I have met individuals (with many years experience in the health care field) who did not know what this ‘harm reduction’ even was. Also I have seen some stigma-inducing memes floating around Facebook shaming those who accept help in the form of methadone to treat this monster of a DISEASE called addiction. Yes people…. Addiction is a disease AND deserves our attention and work.

So why harm Reduction?? Why not cardio/ why not childhood development?/ why not … something else??

This is my story. Why I believe so strongly in sharing this knowledge and advocating for this highly stigmatized group of individuals.

As a naive young nursing student back in 2009/10 I had the invaluable opportunity to work with AIDS NB in Fredericton NB at the needle exchange program. I was so nervous.

  1. I learned all about HIV. How it was contracted, risks associated, the treatment modalities. I just thought HIV was this big scary virus that you caught through unsafe sex with ‘those people’ and sharing needles on the streets with ‘those people’. NEWSFLASH any one of us could be HIV +. This virus certainly does not discriminate. It does not care if you live in poverty or live in the upscale suburbs. It does not care if you are a person suffering from addiction or a high stakes lawyer in the city. Furthermore, I learned that you can hug and provide comfort to people who are HIV + without assuming the risk of contracting the disease. It’s a virus that people are living long meaningful lives with because there are medications to keep the viral load low. HIV is not a death sentence.
  2. Secondly, people who suffer from addiction do not have a look. It is not a ‘those people’ scenerio. Working that needle exchange program I had preconceived notions of the type of people I was going to be handing out clean needles to: I was wrong. My very first client could have been sitting next to me in class that morning. He was clean shaven, well kept, wore nice clean clothes and wore a bookbag. I was so perplexed.

That day I knew I would dedicate my career to informing people about the disease addiction and about communicable diseases. I showed so much ignorance and prejudice in the first few days working at AIDSNB. Albeit in my own thoughts. This is not who I am. I was so wrong I needed to be a part of the solution.

So this is where my fire for this population derives. Through volunteering at AIDSSJ and some previous volunteer work at RECAP and my work with accutely ill persons suffering from addiction on 4cn Internal Medicine AND of course my work on this symposium I think my career is heading is the direction it was meant to.

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/educational-symposium-for-healthcare-workers-trainees-sounding-the-alarm-harm-reduction-symposium-tickets-40938944485?aff=erelpanelorg

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/friday-evening-gala-for-provincialmunicipal-leaders-general-public-sounding-the-alarm-harm-tickets-41949197178?aff=eac2

So if you are like me and need to learn more, want to break the stigma, want to ensure this population has the same resources as anyone suffering from a disease or you just want to stand firm against the fentanyl crisis that is plaguing our nation (and our backyard) then come out to either the gala March 23 or the symposium March 24. Eventbrite links are above!

#harmreduction #soundingthealarm #breakthestigma

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