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ID: 751

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Practice

Topics: Community Mobilisation and Organising; Harm Reduction Services and Service Provision

Presenting author: Yvonne Samuel

Presenting author biography:

Yvonne Samuel has worked in peer education for over five years. She believes in applying best-practice adult education to training and mentoring people who use drugs as peer educators and peer support workers and has developed innovative programs for harm reduction and hepatitis C peer support.

Reaching the so-called hard-to-reach: the efficacy of peer education in isolated communities in New South Wales, Australia

Mary Harrod, Yvonne Samuel, Fiona Poeder, Megan Stapleton

New South Wales (NSW) is geographically as large with many isolated pockets of people who inject drugs. These communities have poor access to sterile equipment and accurate harm reduction information. PeerLink is a grass roots education project that trains and supports community-based peer educators. It has evolved to partner with local service providers while retaining the core principles of community ownership and being designed and implemented drug user peers.
In 2015-2016 Peer Link operated in two urban and one rural community. Locations were selected in consultation the NSW Ministry of Health and local service providers based on current epidemiology of hepatitis C, receptive sharing and distribution of injecting equipment.
Peer Link engages with people who are current injecting drug users and delivers a comprehensive training package that includes safer using, BBV and overdose prevention and the fundamentals of peer education. PeerLink works with local networks to recruit and train peer educators with follow up to assess knowledge and ongoing education and support. Local service providers were engaged where possible to establish a two-way dialogue to support access to health care for the local community.
In 2015 – 2016, PeerLink trained 23 peers who delivered 2, 256 education sessions in three communities. Sessions included BBV prevention and treatment, safer using, overdose prevention and naloxone with participants getting direct access to hep C assessment and treatment. In addition to community education, training in harm reduction and stigma and discrimination was delivered to local service providers. The peer to peer dynamic is integral to the success of PeerLink. Traditional worker/client models of service delivery often create an ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide that results in stigma and social isolation even in urban settings. In contrast, peer support embodies harm reduction by connecting the educator and community members as equals