Legal and Policy Barriers to Harm Reduction and Disease Prevention Services in Russia
"The main reasons cited for restricting the opportunity of drug users to obtain medical and social aid, including prevention services, are the legislative barriers and official policy course that emphasizes reducing supply through law enforcement and reducing demand by promotion of 'healthy lifestyle'. The Strategy of the Anti-Narcotic Policy of the Russian Federation until 202061 and the plan to implement the strategy reaffirmed that approach. The 10-year plan restricts all activities and advocacy associated with harm reduction and other evidence-based services for people who use drugs. OST [Opioid Substitution Treatment] and NSPs [Needle and Syringe Exchange Programs] are considered antithetical to the strategy because they are 'attempts to legalize substitution therapy with use of narcotic drugs and promotion of drug use under pretext of syringe replacement'. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are prohibited from providing information on OST and other treatment and prevention measures opposed by the government. Such restrictive policies clearly indicate that the punishment and social isolation of people who inject drugs is the basis of state’s strategic approach to drug demand reduction. These policies have high financial and social costs."