Last year, Drugreporter gave a detailed account of the attack on harm reduction in Budapest, which resulted in the closure of the two largest needle and syringe programs. This year, we have produced a movie, based on interviews with key professionals and drug users, about what has changed on the streets of the District 8 of Budapest since then. Watch our video with English subtitles!
If the movie starts without English subtitles you can turn them on by clicking on "captions"!
Despite the fact that both the EU drug strategy and the Hungarian national drug strategy approves needle and syringe programs, and aims to scale them up, access to these services has been halved since 2014, when two programs were closed. Many forget that harm reduction is not only about harm reduction, but is an entry-point to other services. Thousands of injecting drug users are now not reached by any kind of services – they are in fact invisible to the treatment system. We don’t even know the epidemiological situation – that is, whether we have an HIV epidemic among them or not. The only way to reach out to these people, with HIV and hepatitis C testing, was through needle exchange. According to the latest figures, the prevalence of hepatitis C has doubled between 2011 and 2014, and it is likely that the process is now accelerating.
But this is just the statistical face of horror – the movie gives a human face to the problem. It tells how people who use drugs feel about the loss of the program in District 8, in a neighborhood devastated by poverty and drug dependence. We also show the brave fight of a few harm reduction activists who created a new organisation, the Alternatíva Foundation, to provide help on the streets, without government support.
Panel discussion after the premiere of the movie at the Room for Change campaign event in Budapest
The movie was premiered at the campaign opening event of the Room for Change campaign on June 26, and was well received in the media. Unfortunately, local political decision-makers in District 8 seem to be deaf and blind to any kind of reasonable solution that is not based on zero-tolerance. The HCLU is now advocating at the Budapest city council for a new urban drug strategy, urging them to allocate resources and set up a drug coordination committee. They may now be more open to the message of our campaign, especially some politicians from opposition parties.
Article: Péter Sárosi
Movie: István Gábor Takács, Mátyás Kálmán and Róbert Bordás