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  Eldred Tellis - Rehabilitating Drug Addicts 

Eldred Tellis on Sankalp's projects for rehabilitation of drug addicts

EldredTellis is one of Mumbai's few dedicated workers in the field of drug demand reduction work. He is involved in creating awareness about the prevention of blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Tellis has been dealing with the demand reduction aspect of drug abuse since 1983, and has worked in the field of the study of AIDS and its prevention since 1990. Currently, Tellis a trustee of Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust, a non-government organisation, and consultant for Sevadhan and SUPPORT, which are involved in preventing and tackling the problems of drug addiction and the AIDS inflicted.

Tellis spoke to Mumbaibest regarding rehabilitation of drug adicts and those affected by AIDS.

What has been your role in tackling drug abuse in Mumbai?
What a few other counsellors and I are involved in is the running of demand reduction programmes, and training and counselling AIDS affilicted persons to deal with the acceptance and progression of the disease. HIV infection causes relapse of drug use amongst recovering drug users. We have now started distributing Buprenorphione among drug addicts injecting heroin, as a substitution programme to minimize harm caused by sharing equipment. Buprenorphine is a cost-effective, harm reduction strategy.

How serious is the AIDS problem in the country?
More than AIDS, Hep-C is the largest threat and a killer disease. It is deadlier than AIDS. There is no vaccine for Hep-C. One should ensure that donated blood from the bank should be screened for Hep-C. The big question that needs to be answered by the medical fraternity is : why do our medical science experts express such great fear over HIV and simply ignore Hep-C ?

Many prevention initiatives took off with varying success. Conspicious by their absence were those aimed at prevention among IDUs, except for a couple of pilot projects in North East India. SHARAN, New Delhi, took the initiative to introduce Harm Reduction programmes within the country and the five metros where the problem of injecting began taking roots.

Could you elaborate on harm reduction as an approach to treatment?
Harm reduction policies and programmes span prevention and treatment. They aim to decrease the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use without necessarily diminishing drug consumption. The term "Harm Reduction'' has been explicitly accepted as National Drug Policy in a number of developed countries including Australia, Canada and France.

Needle exchanges and methadone maintenance programmes are the most commonly quoted examples of harm reduction. They work by increasing the supply of sterile injecting equipment, decreasing the availability of contaminated injecting equipment, and reducing the spread of HIV among IDUs.

Methadone maintenance programmes provide an oral, legal and long half-life drug as a replacement for an intravenous, illegal and short half-life drug. Enrolment in methadone programmes has multiple benefits including decreases in mortality, morbidity, HIV infection and crime.

In what way is Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust involved in the rehabilitation of drug addicts and the AIDS afflicted?
Sankalp is a non-government organisation which aims to meet the needs arising from the community of drug users in Mumbai. Sankalp has tried to spread awareness about the evil of drug abuse and has also provided half-way homes for recovering drug users, family counselling, and home care visits to AIDS patients. We also refer patients to other services (detoxification or AIDS care), conduct worshops and seminars, and keep in constant contact with other NGOs in the field.

By: Mani D'Mello

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