One of the main objectives of the Maltese National Drugs Policy adopted in 2008 is to achieve a high level of health protection and social cohesion by preventing and reducing drug-related harm to health and society, ultimately promoting a culture that discourages the use of illicit drugs. The aim of this policy is to ensure that vulnerable groups receive adequate health and social services, including harm reduction services for those to whom abstinence is not immediately viable.
In Malta, harm reduction responses relate to the prevention of drug-related infectious diseases and include access to clean injecting equipment, testing and counselling for infectious diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), risk awareness and HBV vaccinations. Blood screening and counselling for infectious diseases are provided at the substance misuse outpatient unit, in prison and at the sexual health clinic in Malta.
Needles and syringes are distributed at seven fixed locations across the country. In 2017, around 316 000 syringes were distributed through these specialised facilities, a decrease for the second consecutive year. A special harm reduction centre for women who inject drugs is operated by Caritas and provides sheltered accommodation and intensive therapy to clients who cannot achieve abstinence in the short term. Protection from different forms of violence and from involvement in sex work is also provided.
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