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Intersectionality: people from the LGBTQIA+ community who use drugs

In this video Ruod Ariete from the Philipines speaks about the intersectionality of drug use among members of the LGBTQIA+ community
The Philippines is quite a conservative country. 90 percent of the population identifies as Christians, many people still reject people who use drugs, seeing them as a broken, immoral and useless. Many non-governmental organizations here, particularly those which are faith based, are driven by these same conservative points of view. A lot of these organizations believe people who use drugs are criminals or trouble at best. The past few years have only amplified this belief. This has resulted in mass incarceration and killings of people who are involved or merely associated with drugs. The numbers from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, (BJMP) show that our jail overcrowded rate averages at 600 percent.
Some jails are so jam-packed they reach as much as 3000 percent over-capacity. The same conservative beliefs also shape the way Filipinos feel about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and other related communities or the LGBTQIA+ community. Being gay is tolerated but not accepted, just as homosexual acts may not be a criminal offense but are heavily condemned. LGBTQIA + members have been subjected to so much hatred and disapproval for so long. As a result of this, many hesitate in identifying themselves as part of the community for fear of discrimination. This discrimination has resulted in violence and abuse.
This stigma is so pervasive that discrimination is experienced even within the LGBTQIA+ community itself, whether it’s smoking marijuana or engaging in chemsex to enhance sexual pleasure.
Through the years LGBTQIA + who use drugs, have been forced to take care of themselves because of the stigma and discrimination. They began relying on each other for support and protection. Some have come up with ingenious initiatives grounded on the exact same principles as Harm Reduction to support and keep each other safe and healthy. In 2014, our national policy and health agencies endorsed a needle and syringe distribution program with the same objective of ensuring health and safety. It was a response to the rising prevalence of HIV among people who inject drugs.
Unfortunately, political intervention fueled by stigma and misinformation surrounding drug use and needle and syringe exchange programs led to the program being abruptly shut down just months after it had started. Once again, the conversations around the program reflected the same conservative and hostile views the public held about people who use drugs. NoBox Philippine’s, our organization continuously pushes for this nuanced and honest drug education. We partner with the government at various levels, civil society and communities to share the Harm Reduction framework. Through these workshops, some people start to understand that there are infinitely many ways to help without being dragged to jail or rehab.
It is becoming increasingly clear to more and more Filipinos how crucial nuanced and honest drug education is in helping people stay safe, healthy and alive. Harm Reduction provides the much needed framework to organize all the information that goes into understanding the range of realities of the drug use experience. The Harm Reduction framework is useful in identifying risks when these happen and therefore prevented and minimized. And the framework is just as useful in maximizing pleasure without sacrificing health and safety.
in extending the reach of understanding drug use, the LGBTQIA + community and the overlaps within the wider community. We need to have honest and open minded conversations on this. Let’s take away the box that has trapped us into these conservative beliefs. Let’s remind ourselves of who we are and relearn to care for each other to provide support for it is truly needed, not where we think it’s needed. We are all connected and we all come from the same place. We all have a role in each other’s lives. We need to bring it back to our inherent sense of sharedness and relatedness, our inner self shared with others.
Our Kapwa a core value in Filipino culture that perfectly captures the essence of Harm Reduction. In times of crisis, people don’t see the differences, but how we are all connected. And it’s only when we recognize this value that amazing things can happen. Because at the end of the day, it’s really not about the drugs. It’s about the people.

You might know harm reduction mostly as an intervention with people who use drugs. But many programmes working with other marginalised and criminalised communities, such as sex workers and the LGBTQIA+ community, also identify themselves as harm reduction programmes.

In this video you will hear from Ruod Ariete from the Philippines about the intersectionality of the LGBTQIA+ community that uses drugs. The Philippines is a conservative country with very punitive laws and a raging war on drugs.

He and his colleagues constantly face the harsh reality with their organisation NoBox, as they bravely try to convince their government to start an honest conversation about drugs and the ongoing discrimination towards the LGBTQIA+ community.

In the video you will learn more about influencing policies throughout this course. Ernst will touch upon this in the step: “Including harm reduction into health policies” and the third week of this course is fully dedicated to advocacy and policy influencing.

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Drug Use and Harm Reduction

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