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FAQ – Health

Health and overall well-being remains a priority for many LGBTIQA people and organizations working with them in India. This concern is not limited to just sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, but other less talked about sexual health and mental health issues as well. Widespread socio-legal stigma, discrimination and various forms of violence contribute to this situation. Here’s looking at some frequently felt health needs of LGBTIQA people.

We all believe we know what good health is. What does the World Health Organisation (WHO) has to say about it

We all believe we know what good health is. What does the World Health Organisation (WHO) has to say about it

WHO characterizes good health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This makes sense, doesn’t it – you may be gym fit but if for some reason you are often anxious or depressed, does that sound like good health? You may have no significant disease or disability, but for some reason your family or community around you often leaves you out of key decisions and occasions. That may well make you unhappy and in the long run unwell. Your parents may be in their 40s or 50s, not as active as they used to be, but are quite cheerful and have no major chronic ailments. Just old age doesn’t make them unhealthy, does it?

So, good health seems to be all about a combination of various physical, mental and social aspects rather than any one thing. Let’s all think and discuss more about this issue.

What is physical health?

What is physical health?

According to Wikipedia, physical fitness is a state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of daily activities, occupations and even sports. So absence of disease or significant infirmity (disability) is important for physical health. But let’s not forget that without mental and social well-being physical health is not likely to be sustainable. Moreover, our understanding of issues like disability is changing.

Physical fitness is generally achieved through proper nutrition, moderate-vigorous physical exercise, sufficient rest and a clean environment. There may also be an element of heredity involved – that is, absence of any disease inherited from one’s parentage.

In the Indian context, there may be hundreds of physical health concerns. But two issues that are a major part of the public health disease burden are tuberculosis (TB) and diabetes. We will look at these issues in somewhat more details.

What should you know about tuberculosis or TB?

What should you know about tuberculosis or TB?

According to the WHO website, TB is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis that most often affect the lungs, though other body parts may also be affected. TB is preventable and curable. The vast majority of TB cases can be cured when medicines are provided and taken properly for the entire duration prescribed.

TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

Many people may have latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with disease and cannot transmit the disease. People infected with TB bacteria have a lifetime risk of falling ill with TB of 10%. However, persons with compromised immunity, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.

When a person develops active TB (disease), the symptoms (cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss, etc) may be mild for many months. The earliest you can visit a doctor and get necessary tests done, the better it will be for your peace of mind and, if needed, early and complete treatment.

The last bit on ‘complete treatment’ is crucial – if you stop TB treatment midway just because you start feeling better, the bacteria will develop drug resistance. The disease may come back and it may become harder to treat you.

What should you know about diabetes?

What should you know about diabetes?

The WHO website says diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas gland does not produce enough insulin in your body or when your body can’t effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Raised blood sugar is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves, blood vessels, heart and kidneys.

Most commonly, diabetes may be childhood-onset or adult-onset. Both have similar symptoms – excessive excretion of urine, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes, and fatigue – but in adult-onset diabetes the symptoms may be mild and get detected much after onset, when complications may have already occurred.

Worrying, isn’t it? But diabetes need no longer cause a scare. It can quite easily be prevented, and equally important, even if you do become diabetic, it can be managed through treatment and lifestyle changes that don’t ask for too many sacrifices.

Prevention, as in the case of other diseases, remains the best bet. Maintaining healthy body weight, physical activity (regular exercise), healthy diet (calorie control, minimizing sugar and saturated fat intake) and avoiding tobacco use can go a long way in preventing diabetes.

Early diagnosis can be accomplished through relatively inexpensive testing of blood sugar. Treatment of diabetes involves diet and physical activity along with lowering blood glucose and the levels of other known risk factors that damage blood vessels. Stopping tobacco use is also important to avoid complications.

Adult-onset diabetes can usually be treated with oral medications, though insulin may also be required. Blood pressure control, foot care, regular eye check-ups, ensuring cholesterol control and looking out for diabetes related kidney disease are other important elements of managing diabetes.

Are you going out for that walk now? Or some light exercise at home itself?

What does disability mean?

What does disability mean?

What does the term ‘disability’ bring to your mind? Somebody ‘handicapped’, ‘crippled’ or ‘impaired’? Not a professional, businessperson, athlete or simply the person next door? If you can think of disability as only something negative, then you probably need to refresh your understanding about disability.

First of all, it’s important to not look at a person with any disability as someone ‘other’ or to be shunned. If you wear spectacles, aren’t you disabled? What if you are a little hard of hearing or suffer from chronic pain in your shoulders while writing or in your knees while walking? In other words, disability can happen to anyone, including the fittest looking persons in the film industry or sports. It can also happen to you.

The WHO explains that ‘disability’ is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. Impairment is a problem in body function or structure; activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

Broadly speaking, disability may be physical (like blindness, deafness or limbs related), intellectual (like a learning disability or autism), mental health related or psychosocial (like chronic depression), related to neurological conditions (example cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease), or associated with a blood disorder (haemophilia for instance). Disability may also be age related. A person may have multiple disabilities.

But international bodies like WHO and United Nations also say that disability is not just a health problem. A major part of the problem is not even with the person who has a disability. It is with the attitudes of larger society and with the barriers in the environment in which the person lives.

Time and again we have seen persons with disabilities become achievers as sportspersons, teachers, artists, doctors or lawyers. What about that person with blindness or polio in your locality who goes to office daily like any other person? Remember films like Koshish or more recently Margarita with a Straw and Kaabil?

Clearly, if someone with a disability is provided the support and guidance they need, just like any other person, then they too can participate in society on an equal basis. Whether it is education, employment, sports, dating, tourism, romance, sex, marriage or relationships, persons with disabilities can and should be part of all social spheres.

As for a barrier-free environment, the next time you’re walking on a pavement, think how much better it could be for more and more people if it was not too high to get on to, if it had a slope, if it had a smooth surface with special tiles to help people with visual impairments, or if all people using the pavement were respectful of others.

Are you thinking of discarding words of pity and disgust like ‘disabled’, ‘impaired’, ‘handicapped’, ‘crippled’ or even fancy ones like ‘differently abled’ or ‘specially challenged’? Good for you! Simply say ‘persons with disabilities’.

What is mental health all about?

What is mental health all about?

According to the WHO, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community. Being able to establish fulfilling relationships is also part of mental health.

A person struggling with their mental health may experience a variety of situations. It could be stress, loneliness, depression or anxiety. They might have relationship problems. Many persons with mental health problems have suicidal thoughts, grief, addiction, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), various mood disorders, or other mental illnesses of varying degrees. Intellectual or learning disabilities (explained in the discussion on disability) are also part of poor mental health.

There is a lot of debate on whether terms like ‘mental illness’ or ‘mental disorder’ are appropriate. These terms often tend to increase the negativity and stigma around mental health, when the fact is that like any physical health problem, mental health problems can be managed, treated and cured.

A mental health problem is a matter of ‘health’, not ‘madness’ or ‘possession by a spirit’! You might have heard of the term ‘mental hospital’. Don’t you think it is better to say ‘mental health hospital’?

Often women with mental health problems face more stigma than men, and as a result of that they are often subject to violence and denied basic choices in life. This is related to social prejudices and gender inequality that we must all question. Similarly, LGBTIQA are often abused as ‘mentally sick’ and have to face violence in different forms, which is nothing but social bias around gender and sexuality diversity.

Not all mental health problems are of equal severity and they can also be temporary in nature. Therefore not all of them are ‘disorders’ as such. What is important is that mental health professionals like therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners or physicians can help manage mental health problems with treatments such as therapy, counselling, or medication.

So is it true that homosexuality is not a mental sickness?

So is it true that homosexuality is not a mental sickness?

The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) is considered among the best sources of information with regard to mental health issues worldwide. In a position statement issued in March 2016, they very clearly said: “WPA considers same-sex attraction, orientation, and behaviour as normal variants of human sexuality.” Can you imagine different sexual orientations as different flowers in a basket, or different colours of the rainbow?

The WPA also stated that a same-sex sexual orientation did not imply that a person with such an orientation would have “any objective psychological dysfunction or impairment in judgement, stability, or vocational capabilities”, and “that there was no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation could be changed”.

This means that all the so called treatments for ‘curing’ homosexuality are not only unnecessary and useless, they can also be potentially harmful. Rather, as the WPA argued, people with different sexual orientations may need help with dealing with the stress caused by social stigma around homosexuality, developing a greater degree of acceptance for their own sexual orientation, and leading more comfortable and productive lives.

To quote further from the position statement: “Along with other international organisations, WPA considers sexual orientation to be innate and determined by [a variety of] biological, psychological, developmental, and social factors.” These international organizations include American Psychiatric Association (they delisted same-sex orientation and behaviours as mental illnesses way back in 1973), American Psychological Association (delisted in 1980) and World Health Organization (delisted in 1992).

In early 2014, the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) also came out with a statement stating that they did not consider homosexuality to be a mental health problem. In subsequent years, state level chapters of IPS in Manipur, Odisha and West Bengal have also issued public statements along similar lines.

Unfortunately, many mental health professionals in India still moralize on the issue of homosexuality rather than go by scientific evidence and upgrade their understanding. On the positive side, there is a small but growing number of mental health professionals who have changed their attitudes and approaches.

What about being transgender? What is gender identity disorder? What is this term gender dysphoria all about?

What about being transgender? What is gender identity disorder? What is this term gender dysphoria all about?

Many of the issues highlighted in the previous question on homosexuality are also applicable to having a non-conforming (internal) sense of gender. ‘Transgender’ is often used as an umbrella term to signify non-conforming gender identities, and among others, includes ‘transsexual’, ‘genderqueer’, ‘gender fluid’, kothi and hijra. For a long time, being transgender was considered a mental health disorder, but now the thinking is changing.

These gender identities (and many others) are normal variations in the way different people think and feel about their gender – all a part of a spectrum of gender. For that matter, even with regard to the so called ‘normal’ binary of ‘man’ and ‘woman’, it is now argued that there is no one way of being a ‘man’ or ‘woman’.

The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) holds the view that transgender people (as also lesbian, gay, bisexual and other queer people) “should be regarded as valued members of society, who have exactly the same rights and responsibilities as all other citizens”. Being transgender does not have any implications for psychological dysfunction or impairment in judgement, stability, or vocational capabilities. Neither can your sense of gender be ‘cured’ or changed forcibly.

In keeping with this thinking, international organizations working on mental health, law and policy are doing away with the term ‘gender identity disorder’ and replacing it with ‘gender dysphoria’. The American Psychiatric Association has already done so, while the World Health Organisation will be making the change in its manual on mental health in 2018.

People who have gender dysphoria feel strongly that they are not the gender they physically appear to be. For example, someone with the physical characteristics of a female could feel their true identity is male (man).

The feeling that your body does not reflect your true gender can cause severe distress, anxiety and depression. Dysphoria is a feeling of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and restlessness. But mind you, gender dysphoria is not a mental illness. What need to be diagnosed and treated are the stress, anxiety and depression that go along with it (just as in the case of homosexuality). So the goal is not to change how the person feels about their gender because that internal sense is not the problem.

Counselling, changing the way one dresses, changing one’s name and gender on citizenship and identity documents (legal gender identity change), hormone replacement therapy, voice change and gender reassignment surgery are among a range of treatment options for the mental health problems associated with gender dysphoria. Each of these can help the individual present and express themselves in the gender they desire.

Please also keep in mind that gender dysphoria is not homosexuality. One’s internal sense of gender is not the same as one’s sexual orientation or attraction.

What is sexual health?

What is sexual health?

Once again, looking at what the WHO has to say: “Sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

You may note that many of the issues discussed so far contribute to your sexual health. In common understanding, sexual health is often equated only with preventing, testing and treating sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). But if other health issues are not taken care of, staying safe from STI/HIV infections may not be possible.

For instance, if a person is often depressed, they may take to alcohol to feel better. But alcohol may make them forget to use a condom during sexual intercourse with another person. This can put both individuals at possible risk of STI/HIV infection if any one or both of them have an infection. Similarly, if a person has TB or diabetes, their health systems may be already quite weak. If at this point of time they are infected with an STI or HIV infection, their body may not be able to fight the infection properly. This in turn can have a negative effect on their sexual health.

So what is safer sex?

So what is safer sex?

Safer sex is an important way to protect one’s sexual health. Any sexual activity that does not involve the exchange of body fluids like blood, semen and vaginal fluids between you and your partner is safe. This is because STIs and HIV mostly survive in these fluids in the human body. So if you and your partner use a condom every time during penetrative sex (oral, anal or vaginal), or practice only non-penetrative sex, that would amount to having safer sex.

If you have a sexual relationship with only one uninfected person and you too are uninfected, that too would be a type of safer sex. But only proper medical tests can help confirm if you and your partner are infected or not. Please also note that your partner could be male, female, intersex or transgender, but the principles of safer sex apply to everyone.

Note: Some STIs may be transmitted through non-penetrative sex as well (say, through body rubbing), or sometimes non-sexually (like by sharing towels or through blood transfusion). The best prevention in such situations is to avoid sex with anyone who seems to have symptoms of STIs, limit the number of sexual partners, and to avoid sharing inner garments and towels. In the case of exchange of blood and blood products, prior screening of blood for STIs can help avoid transmission from one person to another.

What are STIs and how to recognize them?

What are STIs and how to recognize them?

As the name suggests, STIs are infections that can be spread from one person to the other through sexual activity. These infections can be quite painful and cause a lot of damage to the body, and may result in illness or even infertility. But if detected and treated early, most STIs can be cured completely.

If you are sexually active, then the most common symptoms to look out for are burning sensation while urinating; itching, redness, rash or sores in the genital area; and unusual discharge and foul smell from the genital area. But if you have any of these symptoms, please visit a doctor (STI specialist or dermatologist) and confirm them through proper medical tests. No self treatment please!

It’s also important to know that there are some STIs that have no outward signs. Thus a sexually active person may be unaware about the infection and also infect others. This underscores the importance of safer sex and regular check-ups.

What to do if you have an STI?

What to do if you have an STI?

As soon as any symptoms appear, one must see a doctor or a health worker. There are many quacks who claim to treat STIs, but may in fact worsen matters; these quacks must be avoided. The treatment of STIs usually involves medicines that must be taken in courses. These courses must be completed, because otherwise the infections may reappear and the medicines may lose effectiveness.

It is best to avoid any sexual contact during the time of treatment, until the disease is completely cured. Otherwise your sexual partner may also be infected. It is also a good practice to take along your sexual partner for STI check-up and treatment as well.

Please keep in mind, early and complete treatment for STIs is the mantra to follow!

What are HIV and AIDS?

What are HIV and AIDS?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), if unchecked, destroys your body’s immunity and leads to an illness that is called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS. The person who gets AIDS becomes ill with many different infections and if not treated in time dies because the body cannot properly recover from these infections.

A cure for HIV infection is yet to be found, but fortunately, treatment for HIV is possible and over the years has improved a lot. Along with proper care and support, HIV treatment can improve the person’s immunity and even reverse the condition of AIDS. Thus AIDS need not be the end stage of HIV infection, it may just be a late stage that can be reversed, and the person infected with HIV can live a long and fruitful life.

How does HIV spread and how to prevent it?

How does HIV spread and how to prevent it?

HIV is also an STI and can spread through sexual exchange of body fluids (semen, vaginal fluids and blood). In other words, unprotected penetrative sex (vaginal, oral or anal) with an infected person can lead to HIV infection. As in the case of other STIs, if you use a condom every time during penetrative sex, you can protect yourself and your partner from HIV.

HIV can also spread through non-sexual routes – transfusion of infected blood and blood products, re-use of contaminated needles and syringes, and from an infected mother to her baby before, during or soon after birth (through breast milk). Prevention will involve screening of blood and blood products for HIV, no re-use or sharing of needles and syringes, and timely treatment for an infected pregnant mother.

How can you know whether you are HIV positive?

How can you know whether you are HIV positive?

One cannot determine whether a person is infected just by their appearance or on the basis of potential symptoms (more on symptoms later). HIV infection can only be detected through special blood tests. To get correct results, an HIV test must be taken one to three months after HIV infection is suspected, depending on the type of testing equipment used.

It takes one to three months of time for the body to produce substances that will show up the infection in the test. During this time a person may be infected and able to pass the infection on to others, but the test will not show up the presence of HIV. This period is called the window period.

HIV tests can be done free of cost at government-run Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres across India. Many private laboratories also offer testing facilities but for a fee. HIV tests must be accompanied with pre and post-test counselling to prepare a person for the test itself and for the results (whether or not they are positive).

It is mandatory for test centres to maintain complete confidentiality around the HIV test results. Other than the relevant health care providers, only the individual tested must first come to know their test results (unless they are a minor or dependent on a guardian for some reason).

HIV infection is permanent – so once infected you will always be infected. But as mentioned earlier, HIV infection is not the end of the road. With proper care, support and treatment, the viral load in your body can be minimized and the infection can be managed like any other chronic disease, say diabetes.

So what are the symptoms of HIV?

So what are the symptoms of HIV?

In the early stages of infection there are usually no symptoms, except occasional influenza, which lasts a short while and is usually ignored. In the later stages, there may be symptoms like painless swollen lymph glands. As the immune system weakens, there can be fatigue, unexplained loss of weight, chronic diarrhoea, prolonged cough and fever caused by opportunistic infections (so named because they must have the opportunity of a weakened immune system to affect you).

In the late stages, when AIDS sets in, the person may suffer from other opportunistic infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, dementia, herpes, fungal infection, and skin cancer. At this stage the person is very weak and can’t fight these infections without medication.

Remember, proper medication, care and support can help treat HIV infection successfully at any stage and even reverse the condition of AIDS.

It is important to know that the symptoms related to HIV may be caused by other infections as well. Only an HIV test can help determine if the cause is HIV or not.

How does HIV not spread?

How does HIV not spread?

HIV cannot be spread by using public urinals, sharing food, vessels, eating food cooked by an infected person, kissing, touching, holding hands, working, swimming or playing together, mosquito and other insect bites. Razors in saloons are also not likely to infect you with HIV, nor will donating blood expose you to the virus. There is no exchange of blood, semen or vaginal fluids likely in any of these activities. In the case of razors too there is no need to panic – if they are disinfected and the blade is not re-used, there is no chance of infection.

Is there a link between STIs and HIV?

Is there a link between STIs and HIV?

STIs, if left untreated increase the risk of HIV infection through the sexual route. The genital sores or ulcers caused by STIs can provide easy entry points to the HIV. In people already infected with HIV, STIs tend to compromise the immunity further, making it easier for HIV infection to progress in the body.

What does HIV treatment involve?

What does HIV treatment involve?

A cure for HIV infection is still not there but it is increasingly possible to treat HIV. In some cases HIV-infected individuals who go on to develop AIDS, when given proper treatment, recover to the extent that the viral load (amount of HIV) in their body becomes negligible.

HIV treatment has two components: One is treatment for HIV infection through anti-retroviral therapy (ART). If started at the right time and taken regularly, ART can prevent the growth of HIV and reduce the viral load in the body to negligible levels. However, ART needs to be taken life-long. If it is stopped or irregular, HIV can regain its strength in the body.

Second, there should be early and complete treatment for the opportunistic infections that invade the body when a person infected with HIV develops AIDS. In India two of the commonest opportunistic infections are tuberculosis and diarrhoea.

HIV treatment should be taken only under the supervision of a certified doctor, after knowing fully potential side effects. The costs involved should also be clearly understood. Though ART is available free of cost in specific government hospitals, the associated diagnostics and travel to and from the hospital may involve some expenses.

What do HIV care and support mean?

What do HIV care and support mean?

What people living with HIV need is not just medical treatment, but also self-care, care from their close ones and larger social support. A combination of care, emotional, social and economic support and treatment can remarkably improve their quality of life, something they deserve as much as people dealing with any other illness. Their family members, particularly children, also deserve support as they too may feel the impact of HIV.

Care in this context means maintaining general health and well being through hygiene, nutritious and safe food, clean drinking water, exercise and rest, and stress management. Safeguarding against air-borne infections and diseases like malaria also is important. If a person already has HIV, then limiting the chances of HIV re-infection through safer sex, no re-use or sharing of injecting equipment and safer exchange of blood and blood products is crucial. All of this often collectively called ‘positive living’.

It is not necessary that care, support and treatment can be provided only in a hospital or hospice. Home-based care is also possible, and may even be better if there is no major illness to deal with. In such situations people living with HIV can learn to take care of themselves in many ways, including keeping track of regular medicine intake.

These days one often hears of PEP and PrEP for dealing with HIV. What are these?

These days one often hears of PEP and PrEP for dealing with HIV. What are these?

PEP and PrEP are relatively new approaches in preventing HIV through intensive and time-sensitive use of ART.

PEP means post-exposure prophylaxis. It involves taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in USA, PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV.

If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during sex or through sharing needles, or if you’ve been sexually assaulted, talk to your health care provider right away about taking PEP. Every hour counts. If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it once or twice daily for 28 days. PEP is effective in preventing HIV when administered correctly, but not 100%.

PrEP on the other hand means pre-exposure prophylaxis. According to the CDC, PrEP is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. Till recently, the pill (brand name Truvada) was used only to treat people with HIV. But now it is also being used to prevent HIV infection. When someone is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection.

When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection. But PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently. It is a powerful HIV prevention tool and can be combined with condoms and other prevention methods to provide even greater protection than when used alone. But people who use PrEP must commit to taking the drug every day and seeing their health care provider for follow-up every three months.

PrEP is available in India only on the basis of a doctor’s prescription. It is yet to be adopted by the government for large scale use in HIV prevention programmes.

What is harm reduction?

What is harm reduction?

In an earlier question we mentioned addiction. Well, just as condom use is about making sex safer (as an alternative to going without sex), harm reduction is all about making drug or substance use safer (as an alternative to stopping drug / substance use altogether).
According to Harm Reduction International, harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop. This also applies to the use of substances like tobacco and alcohol.

The defining features are the focus on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug / substance use itself; and the focus on people who continue to use drugs. It’s important to understand why they use drugs and in the process assist them in making their drug use practices less harmful.

So, for instance, needle exchange programmes for injecting drug users can help them continue to inject but prevent transmission of STIs and HIV. Similarly, oral substitution therapy can help replace unsafe injecting practices with relatively safer oral intake of drugs.

Harm reduction measures are meant to complement other means to reduce or stop the intake of drugs, like abstinence (not taking drugs at all). Most importantly, harm reduction means not being judgmental about people, and helping them make better health choices. Shouldn’t this be the essence behind all health concerns discussed?

Last Modified: 18 June 2018

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