The Santa Cruz AIDs Project's Harm Reduction Program is dedicated to reducing the adverse health, social and economic costs of high-risk behaviors in Santa Cruz County. In a safe and supportive, participant-led community, the program offers a wide variety of outreach, referrals and services. Our programs are designed to provide participants the opportunity to develop, establish and reach positive outcomes for themselves.
Principals of Harm Reduction
Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies that reduce negative consequences of high-risk behaviors, incorporating a spectrum of strategies, from safer drug use to safer-sex practices. Harm reduction strategies meet participants "where they're at," addressing conditions of high-risk behaviors along with the behaviors themselves.
Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve high-risk participants reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition or formula for implementing harm reduction. However, the Santa Cruz AIDS Project considers the following principles central to harm reduction practice.
- Accepts, for better and for worse, that high-risk behaviors are a part of our world and chooses to work to minimize their harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
- Understands high-risk behaviors as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of behaving are clearly safer than others.
- Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being--not necessarily cessation of all behaviors--as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.
- Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who are at risk and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.
- Ensures that participants and those with a history of high-risk behaviors routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
- Affirms participants themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their behaviors, and seeks to empower participants to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.
- Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people's vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
- Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with high-risk behaviors
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