The Alberta Harm Reduction Conference has been in existence since 2000. Initially it was an annual event, and is now held biannually. We have been privileged to have speakers and attendees from across Canada and the US. The conference is a joint effort by Alberta’s needle exchange/Harm Reduction programs, including Safeworks (Calgary), Central Alberta AIDS Network (Red Deer), HIV North (Grande Prairie/Fort MacMurray), HIV West Yellowhead (Jasper), HIV Community Link (Calgary/Medicine Hat), the Lethbridge HIV Connection and Streetworks (Edmonton). The conference moves around the province, and this year, Edmonton is delighted to host the event.
The conference is being co-hosted by Streetworks and AAWEAR (Alberta Addicts who Educate and Advocate Responsibly), the provincial coalition of people who use drugs. The attendees are people from all walks of life, and include frontline workers, people (who admit to) using substances, professionals, researchers, policy makers, students and folks who are interested in the issues surrounding substance use and sex work. The presenters represent those involved in research, policy and practice.
The goals in Harm Reduction have traditionally been related to HIV and Hepatitis C, and these 2 remain a very important focus. But now, other issues need our attention – overdose prevention, supervised consumption, criminalization/legalization of substances, sex work laws, racism and incarceration, access to heroin and methadone, pregnancy and drug use, education of our youth, marijuana legalization in the US, managed alcohol programs and many others. This conference strives to bring together a diverse group of people to talk to each other, learn from each other, and discover ways that we can support each other. Then together, we can take action to create positive change.