Best practice of attracting people who use drugs to harm reduction programs through messengers, social media and Darknet platforms.

Who implements

Saint Petersburg Charitable Fund «Humanitarian Action». Has been working since 1997. Implements the oldest harm reduction program in Russia based at mobile units.

How it implements the best practice

Web outreach in the context of harm reduction - a method of finding, establishing contact and involving PUD in harm reduction programs using social networks, messengers, forums and dark web sites.

In the Telegram messenger, a private chat has been created for recipients of the fund's services (more than 1,100 participants), as well as an open channel "Humanitarian Action"(more than 2,200 subscribers). In the chat, a beneficiary can get information about the fund's services (e.g., about the schedule of mobile units, about the schedule of appointments of trusted doctors, about how to contact an employee of the fund to solve a medical and social problem), discuss topics of maintaining health when using drugs (for example, what to do in case of post-injection complications), share feedback on the work of the fund. The channel publishes daily materials related to informing subscribers about the work of the fund, but most of the content is related to harm reduction, humane drug policy, and drug addiction services in Russia and abroad.

Screenshot of Telegram chat
Screenshot of Telegram channel

The KakaoTalk messenger also has a group chat (number of participants - 160) for the beneficiaries of the fund in order to inform them about the current services and answer questions about the work of the organization. Some chat participants use KakaoTalk only and do not use Telegram.

On the free-of-charge platform for creating bots in Telegram, the @overdosehelp_bot bot has been created, which describes the symptoms of overdoses from various psychoactive substances, has a contact information of a narcologist, allows to call an ambulance, and shares information on how to do artificial respiration. Also, there is information about harm reduction programs in Russia. The number of active subscribers of the bot is over 2,800.

Screenshot of overdoses bot

At the end of 2018, contact was established with the administrators of the largest Darknet drug-selling site Hydra in order to disseminate information about the fund's services. Thanks to this, it was possible to give a series of interviews to the Telegram-channel of Hydra, which in total scored more than 100,000 views. In addition, the site administrators made it possible for the fund employee to create topics there and write comments. As a result, topics were launched on free and anonymous testing for HIV in St. Petersburg, on viral hepatitis B and C, and on harm reduction programs in the Russian Federation.

Results

Work on Hydra began in January 2019, in messengers - in March 2019. In the first half of the year, there were 2,398 new clients, compared to 1,272 in the same period of a previous year (an increase of 89%).

More than 1,000 requests for HIV testing, ARV therapy, hepatitis, overdoses, doctor's consultations, etc. have been received via messengers.

Thanks to the bot, at least 2 lives were saved.