#PeersInThePandemic is a global campaign calling for reforms to harm reduction and treatment systems in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has exposed the failure of our health systems to adequately provide the services and care people need. As is too often the case in times of crisis, people who use drugs have been particularly at risk as harm reduction services have been closed, defunded or made inaccessible in a pandemic environment. This has been particularly troublesome on peer-led programmes as lockdown measures have increased the threat of criminalisation.
Despite these barriers people who use drugs have looked after each other during the pandemic, providing essential care and services to meet the needs of communities where the state is absent. Advocacy by peer-led groups has resulted in some states adopting harm reduction policies championed by the community for decades. As we continue to navigate the realities of a COVID-19 environment, it is imperative that these reforms are maintained and expanded during the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.
#PeersInThePandemic will run from 9 November - 11 December 2020 primarily using social media to amplify our five key policy demands selected based on INPUD's peer-driven research on the impacts of the pandemic on the health and rights of people who use drugs. Each week we will highlight a different demand by sharing calls for action and messaging over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the goal of influencing advocacy for these peer-driven demands by the broader drug policy and harm reduction communities.
Click on each demand to be directed to a page containing talking points and resources for each week.
Demand 1 – Declare Harm Reduction as Essential
We demand that states firmly declare support for harm reduction programmes by declaring these services as essential, ensuring they remain open during lockdowns, and directing public health funding towards the maintenance, delivery and expansion of services.
Demand 2 – Expand & Maintain OAT Take Home Doses
In response to the pandemic 47 countries have expanded take home OAT doses or delivery. As lockdown measures are lifted some states have rolled back these policies despite evidence showing they were an essential part of keeping people who use drugs safe and healthy during the pandemic. We demand take home OAT be adopted as an ongoing policy, and states which have yet to implement this should make it a priority.
Demand 3 – Prioritise Peer-led Responses
Peers are central to the COVID-19 response in their communities. We call for the prioritisation of peer-led responses by directing funding towards harm reduction services led by peers as community members, and to facilitate peer secondary distribution for essential harm reduction supplies such as new injecting equipment, naloxone distribution and overdose prevention education, etc.
30 Nov - 4 Dec
Demand 4 – NO to Punitive Measures in Harm Reduction
For too long harm reduction programs have emphasized social control over the right to health. Punitive measures in harm reduction have restricted people from accessing services such as OAT. COVID-19 has shown these restrictions have always been unnecessary. We demand an end to compulsory urine testing, age limitations, HIV/HCV testing, non-consensual discharges, mandatory attendance, forced reductions, transfer refusals and other stigmatising & exclusionary practices in harm reduction.
Demand 5 – Act on Decriminalisation
The criminalisation of drugs is the basis of systemic issues faced by people who use drugs. Acting on decriminalization is necessary to ensure all other reforms are achievable and sustainable. COVID-19 has shown us the dangers of failing to do so; within a lockdown environment people who use drugs are forced to rely on an increasingly unsafe supply of drugs, put themselves at risk for exposure when buying/selling drugs, and have found themselves targets of police emboldened by emergency powers and acting on existing discrimination against peers. All of this is exacerbated by an ongoing overdose crisis. Our campaign will end with a call for decriminalisation without discrimination, eliminating all elements of the criminal justice system from the lives of people who use drugs.
INPUD’s Social Media Profiles
Before the campaign begins, make sure you are following all INPUD’s social media pages:
Keep an eye out for our #PeersInThePandemic posts and share them widely. If we are not following you or your organisation’s pages yet, please let us know so we can share your posts as well.
General Campaign Guidelines
- Participants should use #PeersInThePandemic for all social media posts, along with any other relevant hashtags pertaining to the action of the week
- #HarmReduction should also be used to follow the main hashtag. We also encourage using #COVID19 as much as possible.
- Feel free to generate your own hashtags as well, keeping on topic to the demands.
- Consider changing your Facebook or twitter cover photo to a #PeersInThePandemic banner, which can be found and downloaded here.
- Use pictures/videos in your posts to increase visibility. We will be providing some for you to use/share, but we also encourage you to get creative and make your own
- Quick photos and brief videos made on your phone using an app like Magisto or Canva are perfect for this – you don’t need to have fancy equipment! We will also provide a short video script for you to make your own videos on your phone.
- If you don’t have a social media profile of your own but have photos/videos to include in the campaign, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org to share from the INPUD accounts.
- Utilize tagging in your posts. Think about decision makers and other people in your country/region you would like to influence and tag them in your #PeersInThePandemic posts. Social media handles of government officials can typically be found with a simple Google search or checking their website. Consider also tagging allies or supporters as well, to encourage them to participate in the campaign.
- For country level targets, consider:
- Government agencies (Ministry of Health, Center for Disease Control, any departments overseeing pandemic response)
- Health officials (health ministers, healthcare administrators, doctors)
- Politicians/decision makers
- Prominent media outlets
- For UN agencies and international targets, consider:
- For country level targets, consider:
- No social media? No worries! There are still many ways to participate in the campaign outside of social media. We encourage creativity; there is no limit on how to get involved. Some suggestions:
- Start a letter writing campaign to decision makers
- Print and post flyers listing the demands in high traffic areas
- Organise a virtual workshop/event on one or all the asks
- Write a press release to the media or get an editorial published
- Share ongoing work relevant to each demand. We encourage everyone participating to use this campaign as an opportunity to elevate work they have done or are doing to advance each of these demands.