Frequently Asked Questions



What is Comprehensive Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction is a public health strategy to reduce negative health outcomes for persons who engage in behaviors that put them and others at risk for disease or injury. Comprehensive Harm Reduction (CHR) calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs, and the communities in which they live, in order to assist them in reducing harm.

Why do we need harm reduction plans?

Harm reduction strategies reduce the physical, social and economic consequences of risk behaviors, both for those whom are enganged in them and for society as a whole.

What are the key benefits of harm reduction strategies?

  • Provides community services to hard-to-reach individuals.
  • Can help motivate individuals towards positive changes through small steps.
  • Improves the health and safety of individuals and your community.
  • Provides community services to hard-to-reach individuals.
  • Prevention of health problems, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, thus reducing health care expenditures.

Do Comrehensive Harm Reduction programs save the taxpayers' money?

Yes! The estimated lifetime treatment costs per person infected with HIV at age 35 is $326,500 and for HCV it ranges from $100,000-$280,000 per person. A 2015 analysis in Washington, DC estimated 120 cases of HIV infection were averted in a two year period, resulting in a net approximate savings of $44.3 million.

Why does South Carolina need a Comprehensive Harm Reduction program? Is it really necessary here?

Injecting drugs can transmit life-threatening infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B virus (HBV), and HCV when equipment used for injection, is shared. Data indicates that 25% of persons who inject drugs become infected with HCV within two years of starting to inject, showing how easily infections spread when equipment is shared. Over the last decade in South Carolina, the percentage of newly reported HCV cases in persons under 30 years of age has steadily increased. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also ranked South Carolina eighth in the nation on the rate of new AIDS cases annually. If you compare the new infection rates for HIV, HBV, and HCV in South Carolina to the infection rates in areas that already have access to comprehensive harm reduction programs, the data becomes crystal clear; South Carolina is in dire need of comprehensive harm reduction programs to stem the tide of this public health emergency.

Does providing narcan and syringes to addicted individuals encourage them to continue using drugs?

No, absolutely not. Years of scientific research show that CHR programs do not increase drug use. In fact, many studies show that these programs actually help decrease drug use. People who participate in CHR programs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment than those who don’t. By meeting drug users “where they’re at” in the spectrum of their use, we encourage the positive changes that our participants are ready, able, and willing to make. We know that our participants care about their lives and their wellbeing and we strive to provide the knowledge, tools, and support they need to make safer and healthier decisions for themselves.

Are Comprehensive Harm Reduction programs & law enforcement natural allies?

Absolutely! Data shows that in areas where harm reduction program are available, people are less likely to acquire HIV and HCV. So if officers get pricked, they are less likely to become infected. 33% of law enforcement officials will be ‘stuck’ in the course of their career, and we don’t want this to happen to anyone. CHR program participants are instructed that when they encounter law enforcement, they should always alert them that they have syringes. Cops don’t get pricked, and participants can carry clean syringes to prevent and eliminate the transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis. CHR programs promote proper syringe disposal in our communities.

Won’t letting drug users congregate at a drop-in location increase crime rates in the neighborhood where the program operates?

Comprehensive Harm Reduction programs do not increase neighborhood crime rates. In fact, these programs benefit community health and safety by ensuring that contaminated syringes are properly disposed rather than discarded on the streets.

Why spend money on comprehensive harm reduction at all? Why not solely fund treatment programs?

Harm reduction is the life that happens between prevention of drugs and drug treatment. Syringe exchange programs are also highly cost-effective. The lifetime cost of medical care for each new HIV infection is over $400,000; the equivalent amount of money spent on syringe exchange programs prevents at least 30 new HIV infections. In addition to the reduced risks for disease, sterile syringe exchange programs facilitate greater access to drug treatment. These programs provide a crucial entry point into medical care, detox and rehabilitation, and mental health treatment.

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