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Harm Reduction in Mauritius

HIV Incidence in Mauritius

Mauritius was the first country in the entire African region to develop Harm Reduction programs for people who use drugs. In 2006, after a strong advocacy from civil societies, the Methadone Substitution Therapy (MST) program was launched by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life. That same year the Needle Exchange Program was also launched by civil societies for People Who Inject Drugs (PWID).

The Needle Exchange Program takes place over fifty different sites, the indicator being 30 syringes per PWID per year distributed through the Needle Exchange Program. This service is provided by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, as well as CUT. As for the methadone Substitution Therapy, there were 6,000 people on the program at the end of 2013, and 16 distribution points, including one in Beau-Bassin prison.

Although many countries are still struggling to introduce induction to the Methadone Substitution Therapy in prisons, Mauritius has managed this challenge in late 2011. However, the Needle Exchange Program or the distribution of condoms remains a challenge for our prison system.

With the implementation of Harm Reduction projects in Mauritius, the incidence rate of HIV has declined by more than 50% among people who inject drugs, from 92% in 2005 to 44% in 2013.

The numbers are still alarming, however, as 52% of People Who Inject Drugs are HIV positive today, according to the Global AIDS Progress Report 2012. In addition, the figures less reported, are the rates of hepatitis C among people who inject drugs in Mauritius which is of 96%. If the HIV retroviral treatment is available in the public health service, this is not the case for the treatment of hepatitis C, which remains potentially life threatening if not treated.

Although the discourse around Harm Reduction today is dominated by the Needle Exchange Program and the Methadone Substitution Therapy, there are also different Harm Reduction strategies that already exist in Mauritius, although they are mainly oriented or limited to injecting drug use.