What is Harm Reduction?

Defining Harm Reduction

A set of strategies and approaches which aims to provide or enhance the skills, knowledge, resources and support that people who use drugs need to be safer and healthier. (Definition by Streetworks)

Harm reduction can be defined as a set of practical strategies with the goal of meeting people where they are at, to help them to reduce harm associated with engaging in risk taking behavior (Harm Reduction Coalition, United States, 2000) (Definition supported by Canadian AIDS Society, 2000)

Basic Principles of Harm Reduction

Harm reduction philosophy considers risk taking behavior as a natural part of our world and suggests that our work should be focused on minimizing the harmful effects of these behaviors, rather than focusing on the cessation of the behavior.

Harm reduction philosophy requires the involvement of those individuals who are the intended recipients of programs and services in the creation of these same services and programs and/or the delivery of programs and services that are designed to serve them. These programs and services must be offered in a non- judgmental and non-coercive manner.

Harm reduction philosophy recognizes that poverty, social class, racism, homophobia, social isolation, past trauma, and other social inequities have an impact on people’s vulnerability to, and capacity for, effectively dealing with risk taking behavior.¬†(Information provided by the Canadian AIDS Society)

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