Monday, 20 March 2023, Safety Net held a Policy Forum at Mandarin Hotel in Bangkok. Safety Net is a network of individuals, community-based organizations (CBOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on substance issues in Thailand. The forum is on harm reduction for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and other sexually or gender diverse (LGBTIQA+) people who use substances. It was part of the chemsex harm reduction project by Safety Net that APN+ provided technical support on.
At the forum, Safety Net presented a five-year community-led harm reduction strategy, which includes advocating for the removal of punitive drug laws and policies and the creation of community-based treatment and support services for LGBTIQA+ individuals who use substances as well as community- watchdog mechanism on harm reduction services by the Thai government. One of the salient points that came out of the forum was the discussion about the harm that LGBTIQA+ individuals experience when using substances, which is not the same amongst all individuals and which differs by group. This requires more understanding of substance use and experience by LGBTIQA+ individuals in order to have an evidence-based and culturally-tailored harm reduction program that uses a rights-based framework.
Another salient point that came out of the forum was stigma and discrimination (S&D) against people who use drugs (PWUD). Participants described how self-stigma prevents PWUD from seeking medical treatment for health harm related to their substance use. They described how PWUD are ashamed of their substance use and are also concerned about how healthcare service providers and other people view them. Hence, it is important to address S&D against PWUD. Safety Net’s work to normalize the discourse of harm reduction in the public is one step to addressing this.