By Hakuma Himmich and Navid Madani – The International Journal of Drug Policy.
HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs are on the rise in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. But the regional response to the epidemic falls short both in terms of the quality and scale of response. From the threat of the death sentence for drug offenses to the burden of refugees fleeing conflict, there are many legal, political and social barriers that hinder the introduction and expansion of harm reduction in the region. However Iran and Morocco are two pioneering countries and over the last decade they have been providing evidence that harm reduction is feasible and acceptable in MENA. Using different approaches, these two countries have overcome various obstacles and encouraged discussion and collaboration among stakeholders, including government, health professionals, civil society and community-based organizations. In so doing they have created an enabling environment to endorse a national harm strategy.