UNODC Unveiled Training Manual for Law Enforcement Officials on HIV Service Provision for People Who Inject Drugs

On 5–7 May 2015 the project office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Belarus in cooperation with the Academy of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus organized a 3–day seminar for the employees of law enforcement bodies, representing different structural units of the Ministry of Interior at the International Training Centre of training, advanced training and retraining of personnel in the sphere of migration and prevention of human trafficking in Minsk.

On 5–7 May 2015 the project office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Belarus in cooperation with the Academy of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus organized a 3–day seminar for the employees of law enforcement bodies, representing different structural units of the Ministry of Interior at the International Training Centre of training, advanced training and retraining of personnel in the sphere of migration and prevention of human trafficking in Minsk.

The theme of the seminar was devoted to the study of the best international practices in the implementation of harm reduction and HIV prevention programmes for people who inject drugs, as well as approaches to occupational safety and coordination of law enforcement activities with other sectors involved in the response to the epidemic.

The workshop brought together 25 participants from all six regions of Belarus and its capital. The participants had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the UNODC training manual for law enforcement officials on HIV service provision for people who inject drugs, which has been presented in the Russian–language edition for the first time, and get information about prevention programmes, which are carried out in our country.

The trainers were well–known experts in the field – Ms Zhannat Kosmukhamedova, UNODC Advisor for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Mr Alexander Tsekhanovich, public activist and a representative of the St. Petersburg Public Charitable Foundation "Humanitarian Action", Ms Lyudmila Trukhan, an HIV expert of the CF "Positive Movement", and Mr Alexander Gusentsov, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology of the Academy of Internal Affairs, Police Major.

The very intense and specific training program with emphasis on such important issues as the regional characteristics of the HIV epidemic and its relationship with injecting drug use; modern approaches to harm reduction, the role of law enforcement officials in the protection of public health and the importance of working with vulnerable groups, the creation of cross–sectoral partnerships to improve efficiency of anti–drug policy and HIV prevention, the best practice experience in international cooperation, etc. It sustained the attention of participants during the whole period of the workshop.

Participants noted the unconventional form of work, which has allowed their direct inclusion in various simulated situations such as personal perception of the fact of potential HIV infection, the reaction of others, redefining the existing stereotypes about HIV–positive people. Moreover, it worked out practical situations involving the possibility of occupational exposure to HIV and its prevention.

On the third day there was a meeting of the training participants with the community of individuals who previously used drugs, which are involved in harm reduction programs, including opioid substitution therapy. Some of them were HIV–positive. This meeting has allowed a better understanding of the psychology and behavior of people who use drugs, their needs for preventive services, as well as served as a factor in creating an atmosphere of trust that facilitate development of proposals aimed at reducing the likelihood of punitive measures for people with drug addiction, and the use of alternatives to imprisonment aimed at treatment and rehabilitation.

Participants commended the progress and results of the training, noting, in particular, that such training should be widely introduced in the training of law enforcement personnel. They also welcomed the idea of ​​developing departmental instructions to ensure the occupational safety of employees in terms of HIV, as well as cross–sectoral cooperation to combat the epidemic.

Ms. Zhannat Kosmukhamedova noted its high methodological and organizational level, and proposed to convey the results of its work in the form of specific instructions on cooperation of law enforcement agencies and social service organizations in HIV prevention for more effective action on the organization of preventive and treatment efforts.

Thus, the training helped to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement officials, as well as creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust between the different institutions in a coordinated effort to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among people who inject drugs.

Vladimir Gordeiko, UNODC National Advisor on HIV/AIDS

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