In the framework of the World Science Day for Peace and Development (November 10th)
The INHSU 2023 event is the 11th International Conference on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users.
It is a significant conference that addresses health issues, particularly hepatitis, in the context of substance use. The event took place from 17-20 October 2023 at the International Convention Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, with additional virtual on-demand access. There were over 700 delegates at the conference.
The INHSU conference is a pivotal event that convenes health professionals, researchers, policymakers,
and advocates dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of people who use drugs, with a
particular focus on hepatitis and other related health challenges.
This international gathering, which draws participants from around the globe, serves as a critical platform for the exchange of the latest research, innovative practices, and policy developments in the field. The conference is not only a hub for professionals but also ensures the inclusion of key population communities, particularly people who use drugs (PWUD), who are integral to the discussions and outcomes of the meeting. The event’s international scope and the universal relevance of its topics underscore its significance, making it an essential rendezvous for stakeholders aiming to make a tangible impact in public health and harm reduction.
At INHSU 2023, Isaac’s role transcended mere attendance, evolving into a series of engaging and
collaborative contributions. He had the honor of participating in a high-level policy meeting, an exclusive
gathering that united 50 global policymakers, individuals with lived experiences of
drug use, and stakeholders from nations as diverse as South Africa and Switzerland. The central theme
was the global expansion of Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT), with a spotlight on Nigeria’s MAT
(Medication Assisted Treatment) programs.
His input, alongside another Nigerian delegate, centered on the newly launched MAT guidelines and the imperative of community involvement in their implementation. Additionally, I was actively involved in networking sessions aimed at fostering potential collaborations between Early and Mid Career Researchers (EMCR) and community members, setting the stage for future joint efforts.
Isaac’s presentations were a core part of his contribution to the conference. He showcased a thought-provoking white paper developed by my team at SSDP Nigeria, which challenged stakeholders to consider their roles in ending the drug war within the country.
Furthermore, Isaac led an oral abstract presentation on ‘Online harm reduction service provision: Lessons learned from Youth RISE Train-the-Trainer Workshop’, sharing valuable insights from a workshop designed to enhance online harm reduction services. This presentation not only drew significant interest from the audience but also sparked discussions on future partnerships and collaborative ventures. These activities underscored the importance of community-driven approaches and the power of collective action in the field of harm reduction, resonating deeply with the conference’s ethos and his personal advocacy for impactful change.
In light of International Science Day, the essence of INHSU 2023 was perfectly captured by a compelling insight Isaac shared with colleagues during the community event: “Centering the lived experiences of individuals is not merely a catchphrase—it’s the cornerstone of evidence-based science in harm reduction.” This statement crystallizes the conference’s dedication to evidence-based approaches and the critical role of science in informing health policies and interventions. It is a powerful call to action, urging us to ground our strategies in the realities of those most affected by our work.
Isaac also shared Youth RISE’s research and engaged in discussions, the importance of supporting science-based evidence in harm reduction became ever more apparent. This quote is a testament to the event’s ethos, highlighting the imperative to integrate scientific inquiry with community insights, thereby ensuring that our collective efforts in healthcare are both data-driven and deeply human-centered. On International Science Day, this message stands as a beacon, advocating for the unwavering support of scientific research that champions the health and dignity of all individuals, particularly within the field of harm reduction.
The INHSU 2023 conference was a crucible of learning and advocacy, where my visit to a Drug
Consumption Room (DCR) in Geneva offered a tangible glimpse into the transformative power of harm
reduction strategies. These facilities exemplify a compassionate approach to public health, providing safe
havens for drug use under medical supervision, thereby mitigating overdose risks and disease
transmission, while also serving as conduits to broader health and social services.
The conference distilled several critical takeaways: the pressing need for amplified funding in harm reduction and hepatitis C efforts, with a stark funding shortfall highlighted; the call for decriminalization policies to dismantle barriers to health services; the irreplaceable value of community involvement in shaping effective public health responses; and the imperative to tailor harm reduction strategies to the unique needs of youth and vulnerable populations. These insights not only enriched my understanding but also underscored the universal urgency for adaptive and culturally sensitive health initiatives.
As INHSU 2023 comes to an end, we are reminded that the dialogues and partnerships I’ve engaged in are part of a broader, dynamic movement toward a more just and effective public health paradigm. This conference has underscored the collective commitment to advancing harm reduction and evidence-based policies—a movement gaining momentum with exchange of knowledge and new discovery. We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the organizers of INHSU 2023, the committee for the community scholarship which Isaac received, his co-authors and the entire team at Youth RISE for their support towards his successful attendance at the conference.