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Harm reduction overview for Belgium

Map of Belgium

1. National context

Needle and syringe programmes (NSP) have existed in the French community since 1994. In 1998 a law was adopted allowing needle exchange in pharmacies. In 2000 the Flemish community made the necessary legislative adaptations, and from 2001 such programmes have also officially been implemented there. These programmes (stationary, mobile or in pharmacies) are now available across the country, except in the German community. In general, harm reduction projects are set up by non-governmental organisations, and some are managed by city authorities. In the French speaking community these projects are funded by the Federal Public Service Home Affairs. In the Flemish community the projects are funded by the community itself. The harm reduction programmes offer sterile injecting material (syringes, filters, ascorbic acid, spoons, alcohol swabs, injectable sterile water), foil, bicarbonate and containers, and also collect used syringes and needles. In addition, these programmes facilitate the referral of PWID to other prevention and treatment services.

In 2013 a total of 64 specialised agencies and 18 sites serviced by outreach workers offered harm reduction services to PWID, including the provision of approximately 908 000 syringes; however, this number may be underestimated as some NSP do not report on distributed sterile injecting equipment. In addition to syringe provision by specialised agencies, pharmacies in the French and Flemish communities distribute a substantial number of syringes. In the French community syringes are distributed mainly as part of the subsidised ‘Sterifix’ kit (29 810 syringes in 2013). Annual evaluations of the needle and syringe programmes in the Flemish region indicate that pharmacies can play an important role in the provision of injecting material, as almost two-thirds of NSP clients report purchasing injecting material from pharmacies. It is important to note that not every province has a good geographical spread of NSP. Moreover, in Belgium there are no programmes providing sterile injecting equipment to prisoners. In the prevention and control of infectious diseases among PWID, special emphasis has been given to HCV counselling and testing in the recent years.

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2. Responses to prevent and reduce drug-related infectious diseases

Needle and syringe programmes Country  data
Availability of  NSP programmes Limited
% NSP availability at NUTS3 57%
Drug use equipment distributed at specialised drug agencies (standard prevention material)
availability of alcohol pads Yes
availability of dry wipes Yes
availability of containers Yes
availability of water Yes
availability of condoms Yes
availability of foil Yes

Sources:

Structured questionnaire 'Prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug use' (SQ23/29), submitted in 2014.
For an explanation of terms used, see the definitions of terms.
Availability expert rating scale:

  • Full – nearly all persons in need would obtain it.
  • Extensive – a majority but not nearly all of them would obtain it.
  • Limited – more than a few but not a majority of them would obtain it.
  • Rare – just a few of them would obtain it.
Testing, vaccination and treatment of infections Country  data
Availability of Hepatitis C testing in the community Limited
Availability of universal hepatitis B immunization programme Yes
Hepatitis B vaccination programme specific for high risk groups  Yes
ARV treatment of HIV infection  Extensive

Sources:

Structured questionnaire 'Prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug use' (SQ23/29), submitted in 2014.
Availability expert rating scale:

  • Full – nearly all persons in need would obtain it.
  • Extensive – a majority but not nearly all of them would obtain it.
  • Limited – more than a few but not a majority of them would obtain it.
  • Rare – just a few of them would obtain it.
Health promotion responses Country  data
Availability of individual counselling programmes Limited
Availability of programmes for practical advice and training on 'safer use/safer injecting' Extensive
Involvement of peer educators in the response to infectious diseases prevention Yes

Sources:

Structured questionnaire 'Prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug use' (SQ23/29), submitted in 2014.
Availability expert rating scale:

  • Full – nearly all persons in need would obtain it.
  • Extensive – a majority but not nearly all of them would obtain it.
  • Limited – more than a few but not a majority of them would obtain it.
  • Rare – just a few of them would obtain it.

Drug Treatment

See the country specific treatment profile.

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3. Responses to prevent and reduce drug-related deaths

Availability of drug-related death responses in the community Country  data
Availability of overdose information materials Extensive
Availability of individual overdose risk assessment (provided by trained drugs or health workers) Rare
Availability of overdose response training N.Av.

Sources:

Structured questionnaire 'Prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug use' (SQ23/29), submitted in 2014.
Availability expert rating scale:

  • Full – nearly all persons in need would obtain it.
  • Extensive – a majority but not nearly all of them would obtain it.
  • Limited – more than a few but not a majority of them would obtain it.
  • Rare – just a few of them would obtain it.
Availability of drug consumption rooms Country  data
Number of facilities n.av.
Number of cities n.av.
Number of consumptions per year n.av.

Sources:

Structured questionnaire 'Prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug use' (SQ23/29), submitted in 2014.
N.Av. stands for ‘The intervention is not available in the country’.

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4. Responses to prevent and reduce drug-related harms in recreational settings

Provision of specific responses implemented in night clubs and festivals Free, accessible, cold water Immediate First Aid ‘Chill out’ rooms Information material Outreach work Amnesty bins
Night clubs Rare Limited Extensive Limited Limited Not available
Festivals Limited Extensive Extensive Extensive Extensive Not available

Sources:

Structured questionnaire 'Prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug use' (SQ23/29), submitted in 2011.
Provision expert rating scale:

  • Full – in nearly all night clubs/festivals.
  • Extensive – a majority of night clubs/festivals provide the intervention (but not nearly all of them).
  • Limited – more than a few night clubs/festivals provide the intervention (but not a majority of them).
  • Rare – just a few night clubs/festivals provide the intervention.

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About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Monday, 01 June 2015