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NUAA PEERS & CONSUMERS FORUM 
& INHSU 2021

9TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON
HEALTH AND HEPATITIS CARE
IN SUBSTANCE USERS

The NSW Users and AIDS Association's (NUAA) annual Peers & Consumers forum took place on 11-12th October this year, with the theme of the event being “Peers as Leaders”. 


The PAC Forum, which began in 2018,  highlights the way that we as people who use drugs, always step up to support each other to improve the health, dignity and human rights of the community.


The International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU) is a global network dedicated to improving the health of people who use drugs, with a specific focus on hepatitis C, infectious diseases, and harms that can occur from drug use.


Held annually in different countries, the 2021 conference took place virtually due to Covid19, with researchers, innovators, peer leaders and interested and invested others all attending via their home/work computers.
This year the 2 conferences/forums joined forces as the city INHSU had chosen to have it's conference in was Sydney, Australia.

The INHSU conference is a 3 day event PLUS a Community Day. The Community Day is traditionally co-programmed by the host city/country's state or national drug user association or peer based community organisation. This year it was NUAA, so became the second day of the PAC forum and the Community Day of INHSU. 
 

The Community Day can be attended free of charge by community workers of not-for-profit community orgs or by any community members with lived or living experience of drug use, viral hepatitis or HIV/AIDS.


The forum is a unique opportunity for peers and consumers to connect, network and learn, and for service providers to gain insight into the peer experience. 


Sessions included:

  • Peer organising and leadership in communities of people who use drugs

  • Diversity in our communities

  • Movements for drug decriminalisation and legalisation

  • Working in mainstream organisations

  • Information on Reagent Pill Testing Kits and Fentanyl Test Strips

  • The intersecting issues of gender, drugs and motherhood

  • Issues affecting people in regional and remote areas who use drugs

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INHSU Session Summaries

Over 3 days there were over 104 topics covered in over 23 sessions by 20 key speakers from 8 countries including Australia, USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Scotland, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal.

 

Thankfully the conference rapporteurs did an amazing job summarising the sessions by subject matter and WHACK has tried to summarise their summaries.

 

Here's a wee glimpse.

The sessions were recorded and are available online to watch online through the INHSU website https://www.inhsu.org/2021-conference/ 

Community Day Summary

Epidemiology & Public Health Summary

Epidemiology & Public Health Summary by Adelina Artenie- University of Bristol, Epidemiologist & Post doctoral fellow.


"In line with the original focus of INHSU, there were a number of presentations that focus on hepatitis C and hepatitis C elimination. The plenary talk by Dr. Niklas Luhmann, gave us a global perspective on the progress and the remaining challenges for achieving the WHO elimination goals." 
Planning for the response has increased considerably ie. 124/194 countries developed national viral hepatitis action plans in 2019. On the other hand we see that only 2/3 of them explicitly mention interventions for people who inject drugs(PWID). 

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Clinical Sciences Summary

Clinical Science Summary by Joshua A Barocas, MD, Assoc. Professor of Medicine at University of Colorado School Of Medicine


"There were essentially 5 themes coming across in social science sessions..." 

1. The population of people who use drugs is vast and heterogeneous. This in and of itself presents challenges. As we move forward in our treatment paradigms in our clinical care, it's not just the drugs, it's the whole person. We have to treat people as a whole person.


2. Improving clinical care means bringing it to where people are. And there are innumerable examples of this throughout the conference. 


3. HIV/HCV are only the tip of the iceberg- Skin & soft tissue infections(ssti) and vascular disease, mental health, hospitalisation.

4. Differential impact of COVID pandemic on PWUD- access to service affected.
 

5. Health is not simply the absence of disease- housing is healthcare, disease prevention is healthcare, education, food, all the basics-are healthcare.

Social Science
& Policy
Summary

Social Science & Policy Summary By Dr. Peter Higgs, Associate Professor (Public Health) With thanks to Ms Ella Yoannidis, LaTrobe University


@AlisonRitter1
• All sorts of behind the scenes work is required to change the policing and enforcement voice
• Values like compassion and justice can be the key to the communication required
• Real change requires 'policy entrepreneurs' -everyone has a role to play -there is no position description

@DrSarahWakeman
•Ongoing public health crisis due to inadequate care, policy and treatment
•Presented insights from qualitative research showing how staff worked with 'radical kindness;' ensuring people stayed in treatment highlights importance of 'structural competency’
•Compassion saves lives


#MarianneJauncey @weareuniting
•We all need to understand that we need to do more than just provide equipment then turn people away
•Beholden on us all to find a role and fight the good fight –have conversations in order to do better
•Health services are expensive so we should not be adding to the narrative that reinforces stigma / unworthiness of people who use drugs to access health care

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What should we do and what do we need NOW?

 

  1. Continue pushing the envelope of what treatment is, where treatment is given, and by whom

  2. Focus on incorporating community based participatory research principles

  3. Dissemination of evidence-based practices are key

  4. Keep an eye to the future

  5. Integrate established research methods in new, innovative ways

Closing Ceremony, Introduction of the Jude Byrne Emerging Leader Award & Awards Summary

As part of the closing ceremony, Annie Madden gave a beautiful memorial dedication to Jude Byrne - our colleague and friend who passed earlier this year and the introduction of the Jude Byrne Emerging Female Leader Award- a professional development opportunity which will support emerging female identifying leaders.

A full scholarship to attend INHSU conference and a tailored 9 month long mentoring program in the area of their choice- will be awarded to two recipients each year starting in 2021 in recognition of their contribution to the community.

 

Other awards given out this year were the New Investigator Awards. 
These went to:


Thomas Santo Jr., National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW, Sydney AUS. for Epidemiology & Public Health Research. 


to Christopher Byrne, University of Dundee, UK for Clinical Research.


And to Trevor Goodyear, University of British Colombia, CAN for Social Science & Policy Research.

 

A big congratulations to all the award winners! 


As a community member, & peer worker-

at first glance these forums & conferences can overwhelmingly seem like a bunch of 'sciencey',

heavy on the 'big words', bureaucratic box ticking-

lectures that you walk out of dazed and bemused by.

 

But what you don't see in the powerpoint slides or the histogram charts is the passion and real world care and humanity of the people that work tirelessly behind the surveys and the data sets to try to make real change for our community.

They may not get it right all the time- but who does?

 

The fact that they work everyday to work with and listen to us about the things that affect us more and more- to get it right speaks louder than any peer reviewed essay ever will. I know that I'm grateful for those who speak to politicians in the language they understand because they sure as hell don't listen to us. To those who do the thankless research on the chronic illnesses that are killing myself and my friends. To those who keep on top of the chemistry and the policies and the laws that have put us and held us down since forever.

Thank you.

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