Author: Nigel Brunsdon

Minimum Standards for Needle Exchanges and Harm Reduction Services

The charity Humankind has launched a new minimum standards document for their organisations harm reduction services. The new standards are intended to improve equitable access to needle and syringe provision and reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by people who use substances.

The new guidelines have been welcomed by others working in the sector. “I am delighted to see drive to improve the care we offer to some of our most vulnerable members of society”, said Professor Graham Foster, Professor of Hepatology at Queen Mary University of London and National Clinical Chair for the Hepatitis C Delivery Networks.

“Preventing avoidable harms by high quality needle exchange is one of the most effective ways of improving health and reducing costs and this initiative will help in our goals to build back better after the pandemic”, Foster added.

Low Dead Space Injecting Equipment: A Briefing

Maximising the Effectiveness of Needle Exchange with low dead space syringes and prevention of accidental sharing, this briefing by Exchange Supplies is a free 24 page book that is a comprehensive guide to addressing these two key areas of injecting related risk.

Giving full descriptions of the advantages of low dead space injecting equipment and reducing accidental sharing, it is aimed at drug user activists, practitioners, commissioners and people who use drugs.

Low Dead Space Posters and Leaflet

Exchange Supplies and Michael Linnell have produced a collection of posters and a colourful leaflet to promote the use of reduced dead space equipment.

Low dead space injecting equipment has less space between the needle and the plunger after injecting. Blood and drug remain in this space, so if equipment is shared the risk of spreading blood-borne viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis C, is higher when there’s more blood left in the equipment.

The poster topics were informed by the information gathering stage of the project, and cover the subjects most commonly requested as in need of additional information.

The posters can be used together or in rotation, with a different message every month or so being highlighted.

Chemsex and Harm Reduction for Gay Men Who Have Sex With Other Men

Chemsex briefing from Harm Reduction International. Using substances for sex and socialising is not a new phenomenon. Drug use was documented among gay men and other men who have sex with men long before the term “chemsex” was coined. Chemsex, which has come to the attention of public health professionals in the past decade, involves both sexual and drug-related high risk behaviours such as multiple sexual partners, the use of multiple drugs together, and injecting drug use.

There are many definitions of chemsex, but most agree that it involves the following:

  • Sex between men
  • Substance use to facilitate, prolong or enhance sex
  • Use of a specific set of substances (mainly stimulant drugs)
  • Casual sexual partners and often group sex
  • Events which last for an extended period of time
  • Often facilitated by digital technology.

HIV in the UK

HIV epidemiological reports based on PHE data on HIV testing, diagnosis and care in the UK.

Public Health England produce this annual report reviews data for 2019 on new HIV diagnoses, people accessing care in the United Kingdom (UK) and HIV testing in England. It is associated with a set of data tables and a slide set for presentations.

The data show that in 2019 the UK, nationally, met the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 90-90-90 targets for the third consecutive year, with London achieving the most significant improvements in diagnosis, treatment and viral suppression.

Global State of Harm Reduction Reports

Harm Reduction International’s flagship publication is the biennial Global State of Harm Reduction report. First published in 2008, it involves a coordinated effort across practitioners, academics, advocates and activists to map global data and responses to HIV and hepatitis C epidemics related to unsafe injecting and non-injecting drug use.

It is the only report to provide an independent analysis of the state of harm reduction in the world and has become the go-to source on global harm reduction developments for researchers and advocates in our sector and beyond.

Shooting Up: Infections among people who inject drugs in the UK

People who inject drugs (PWID) are vulnerable to a wide range of viral and bacterial infections. These infections can result in high levels of illness and in death, so public health surveillance of infectious diseases and the associated risk and protective behaviours among this group are important. This Public Health England publication reports on the extent of infections among people who inject drugs (PWID) in the UK.

The Shooting Up report is produced annually and we at the NNEF believe that all groups working to support PWID in the UK should use this document to inform their practice and ensure the information they provide people is accurate and up to date.

The PHE page for the Shooting Up report also includes an archive of previous year’s reports.

Hepatitis C in the UK

Latest estimates suggest that in 2015 around 174,000 people (95% credible interval 161,000 to 188,000) in the UK were living with chronic HCV infection, and that this figure has fallen by around one third to 118,000 in 2019.

Injecting drug use continues to be the most important risk factor for HCV infection in the UK, with data from UK surveys of people who inject drugs (PWID) suggesting that in 2019, just over half of PWID tested positive for HCV antibody, and just less than one quarter had evidence of current infection.

Public Health England produce this annual report on HCV in the UK.

Drug consumption rooms: An overview of provision and evidence

Supervised drug consumption facilities, where illicit drugs can be used under the supervision of trained staff, have been operating in Europe for the last three decades.

These facilities primarily aim to reduce the acute risks of disease transmission through unhygienic injecting, prevent drug-related overdose deaths and connect high-risk drug users with drug dependence treatment and other health and social services.

The Photograph Not Taken

I’ve been fortunate to have been given access to photograph at the two Drug Consumption Rooms in Australia, the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) which has been running for over 17 years, and the recently opened Melbourne Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR). Most of the photos I’ve been taking are of the staff and the facilities at the projects… but I’d like to describe the photo I didn’t take.


Images and content © Nigel Brunsdon unless stated otherwise, all rights reserved.

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