The Austrian Addiction Prevention Strategy, together with the nine provincial strategies, forms the basis for harm reduction interventions. The reduction of drug-related harm is a focus of all areas of drug-related service provision in the country. Implementation of harm reduction activities rests exclusively with the provinces, and comprises diverse measures oriented towards low-threshold assistance and reducing the risk of the problematic consequences of drug use. Specific methodological approaches, such as peer support, are now being employed in the framework of harm reduction. Outreach work is of central importance in this context. Outreach ranges from street work to treatment referral services.
Availability of selected harm reduction responses
NBYear of data 2016.
The key harm reduction interventions in Austria are syringe exchange and syringe sale, which are available in seven out of nine provinces. In addition to clean injecting equipment, interventions to prevent the spread of drug-related infectious diseases include the provision of information on safer use/safer sex and condom distribution; syringe exchange and vaccination programmes against hepatitis A and B; free testing for HIV and viral hepatitis; access to low-threshold HCV treatment services; and counselling. In terms of the general health of drug users, women’s services also focus on gynaecological healthcare and pregnancy.
Between 2003 and 2015, the number of syringes distributed through these programmes more than tripled, from 1.7 million to 6 million (excluding syringes sold in pharmacies). This increase can also be attributed to the continuous expansion of the low-threshold network, with new facilities being opened during this time. Needle and syringe exchange is available at fixed sites through lowthreshold services and outpatient drug services, through outreach workers and via syringe vending machines located in the community and serviced by outreach workers. Other injecting equipment (e.g. microfilters) is frequently distributed along with sterile syringes; however, this distribution is not systematically recorded.
The promotion of safer use and risk reduction in recreational settings is also considered to be important in reducing drug-related harm. For example, the organisations Check-it! in Vienna and MDA basecamp in Tyrol provide information and drug-checking services to users in these settings.
Between 2003 and 2015 the number of syringes distributed more than tripled, rising from 1.7 million to 6 million