Harm Reduction: The Senegalese Experience

Film on the first publicly funded harm reduction center in West Africa

Drug policies in West Africa condemn both traffickers and drug users. However, for the latter, these policies constitute a real challenge and obstacle for those who seek and need access to social and health care services.

Although drug use is criminalized in Senegal, a progressive initiative was started in 2014, with the opening of the first government run harm reduction center in Senegal and West Africa called the Centre de Prise en Charge Intégrée des Addictions a Dakar (CEPIAD). Drug users, mostly based in Dakar, are able to access medico-social support adapted to their addiction and can engage in mindfulness activities that will facilitate reinsertion into social and economic life. Moreover, the field staff at the center have one on one meetings with persons who inject drugs and provide information and resources to help reduce the health risks associated with this form of drug use.

Through testimonies of former and current drug addicts, social workers, health workers and policy makers, this short film highlights what harm reduction means and how it works within the Senegalese context. It explores the ongoing collaboration between different state bodies and non-state agencies to operate the harm reduction center and their role in creating a favorable environment for drug users, allowing them to regain confidence in themselves and to reintegrate society.

The support for the harm reduction approach and the consideration of drug addiction as a public health issue suggests that there is can be positive headway made in the dialogue around reforming Drug Policy in Senegal which could also influence other policies throughout West Africa.

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