Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW, July 2020
Priority groups at risk of blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections are still likely to experience negative behaviour from the general public and in healthcare settings according to a recent report from the Stigma Indicators Monitoring Project.
86% of the general public sampled self-reported that they would behave negatively towards people who inject drugs to some extent, as did 56% of healthcare workers and 55% of healthcare students. Additionally, 64% of the general public, and 36% and 31% of healthcare workers and students respectively, self-reported likely negative behaviour (to some extent) towards sex workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound effect on the provision of health services across the globe and is further magnifying the existing barriers faced by people who use drugs in accessing harm reduction services. Programmes have had to adapt, and efforts are being made to enhance accessibility and ensure the continuity of harm reduction services in a context that is changing daily.
But what does this look like in reality, and what practical measures can be put in place to ensure that people who use drugs continue to have access to the services and support that they need?
The aim of this webinar is to facilitate an interactive discussion and share experiences on how to maintain and adapt harm reduction services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speakers will discuss:
• The impact of COVID-19 on the lives of people who use drugs and their use of services
• Community mobilisation and advocacy by people who use drugs
• Examples of how harm reduction programmes such as OST and NSP are continued in some countries
Organisers: Médecins du Monde, International Network of People Who Use Drugs, Harm Reduction International, European Network of People Who Use Drugs, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Health Organization.
Since the COVID-19 virus is so new and can be life threatening, there are many unknown factors at play. This is even more so for people with pre-existing health conditions to consider. To help address those concerns and to answer the frequently asked questions, Hepatitis NSW has now compiled a number of online resources.
All pages are based on the most up to date information and will be updated frequently.
The hep C FAQs cover: Hep C and COVID-19; Hep C treatment and COVID-19; Drug use and methadone; COVID-19 and other risks; Liver health and COVID-19; COVID-19 virus and illness
The hep B FAQs cover: Hep B and COVID-19; Hep B treatment and COVID-19; Hep B vaccination and COVID-19 (people NOT living with hep B); COVID-19 and other risks; Liver health and COVID-19; COVID-19 virus and illness.
SHINE SA will now temporarily provide a full 28-day supply of Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) medication in place of the usual five-day starter pack. This measure has been put in place with the assistance of SA Health to help limit movement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, clients received a five-day HIV PEP starter pack and then the remaining medication after a follow-up appointment. Clients can now call SHINE SA for a telehealth appointment where our team will guide clients through the process including supply of the medications and blood tests. Follow-up care arrangements will remain in place.
What is PEP?
PEP is a four week long course of medication taken to reduce the risk of HIV infection. It needs to be initiated within 72 hours of possible contact with HIV in order to help prevent the chance of infection. Exposure can occur through unprotected sex or the sharing of needles and other injection equipment.
It’s important that PEP is accessed as soon as possible after you think you may been exposed to HIV. If you are outside of the time-frame you can still contact your local GP or SHINE SA for further assistance.
What are the most common reasons for needing PEP?
Sex without a condom or sex where a condom broke or slipped off, with a person who has, or might have, HIV.
Sharing needles or syringes with a person who has, or might have, HIV.
How can I find out more?
The PEP Hotline is available 24 hours a day on 1800 022 026. The Registered Nurse on the PEP hotline will help assess your needs and indicate where to access PEP near you.
To speak to SHINE SA about accessing PEP call 8300 5300.
To learn more about PEP you can visit the SAMESH website or call 7099 5300.
Thorne Harbour Health – media release, 26 March 2020
For the first time in its four-decade history, Thorne Harbour Health is calling on communities to stop having casual sex in the face of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Thorne Harbour Health, formerly the Victorian AIDS Council, is calling on LGBTI communities and people living with HIV to limit their risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth said, “We’re faced by an unprecedented global health crisis. While COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, the close personal contact we have when during sex poses a serious risk of COVID-19 transmission. We need people to stop having casual sex at this stage.”
“But after four decades of sexual health promotion, we know abstinence isn’t a realistic strategy for most people. We need to look at ways we can minimise risk while maintain a healthy sex life.”
Last week, the organisation released an info sheet with strategies to minimise the risk of COVID-19 while having sex. Strategies included utilising sex tech, solo sexuality, and limiting your sexual activity to an exclusive sexual partner, commonly known as a ‘f*ck buddy’.
“You can reduce your risk by making your sexual network smaller. If you have a regular sexual partner, have a conversation about the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provided both of you are limiting your risk by working from home and exercising physical distancing from others, you can greatly reduce you chance of COVID-19 transmission,” said Simon Ruth.
The organisation’s stance is not dissimilar from advice from the UK government. Earlier this week, chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries advised couples not cohabitating to consider testing their relationship by moving in together during the country’s lockdown.
Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth released a video message today addressing sex & COVID-19 following last week’s message about physical distancing.