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CAHMA Services Peer Based Representation

Peer Based Services


Drug users (and particularly illicit and injecting drug users) are some of the most marginalized groups in the community. Illegality, shame and stigma keep drug users away from information, support and services. Long term effects of being locked outside of mainstream society are: Serious health problems; Unemployment; Family and community breakdown; and In many cases, premature death.


Peer-based services play a crucial role in linking people back into society and to support and services. How? Peer based services are run by and for drug users and ex-drug users. Peers understand and can empathize with the issues drug users experience and this creates credibility and trust. Peer-based services have a unique ability to reach highly marginalized people and groups that other services cannot reach.


Peer-based services are based on the concept that: drug users can and do educate and learn from each other; these interactions are part of the everyday lives of drug users and can be utilized as an education, advocacy and support tool; drug users/ex-users can manage their own programs and speak on their own behalf; and drug users have first hand knowledge of the issues that affect them – vital in the targeting, planning & delivery of services and in policy development.


Peer-based services are important because: they are based on the philosophy of empowerment; they encourage drug users and ex-users to take an active role in their health & wellbeing; they are cost-effective, having the capacity to reduce long term health & social costs through effective prevention; they WORK! How do we know? Australia has maintained one of the lowest rates of HIV among IDU in the world for over 20 years; and has a declining hepatitis C rate among IDU; The difference? Australia is world leader in peer-based services and organisations.


There are many different forms of peer-based services & programs, such as: Peer education (both formal and informal); Peer support groups; Individual peer advocacy (advocating on behalf of individuals); Peer representation (advocating & representing on behalf of drug users & ex-users as a group); Peer-based needle & syringe programs; Peer-based primary health clinics; Peer training (formal skills & capacity building courses); Peer resources and materials such as magazines and radio shows.