Language Matters: The Development Of A Resource To Improve Treatment Access And Reduce Stigma In Drug And Alcohol Treatment Settings Through A Community Partnership Model

Author: Harrod ME, Hodge, S and Poeder, F, Stirling, R

Theme: Epidemiology & Public Health Research Year: 2018

Language mediates our perceptions of the world around us and is a potent measure of our attitudes
towards people who inject and/or use drugs. It also has a powerful impact on how people who inject
and/or use drugs view themselves. Stigmatising language is a barrier to accessing hepatitis C
treatment across health care settings with 80% of people who inject drugs in Australia encountering
stigma when seeking care. Reducing stigma is a key target in Australian national and jurisdictional
hepatitis C strategies given the goal of hepatitis C elimination by 2028. The NSW Users & AIDS
Association and Network of Alcohol & Other Drugs Agencies partnered to develop a resource aimed
at promoting the use of person-centred language in community-based drug and alcohol treatment
settings suitable for the Australian context.
Resource development consisted of three phases. Review of current guides located resources from
comparable settings that were then combined to produce a draft guide. We then trialled the guide
with consumer and service provider focus groups. Key stakeholders were then consulted to refine
the resource and guide the style of the final guide.
The “Language Matters” resource has quickly been taken up by service providers across Australia
with social media attention and requests to reprint indicating a strong need for such a resource
developed for the local context.
Our attitudes towards substance use and how we respond rests on the concepts and language we
use. We need to be less ambivalent, more mindful and deliberate about avoiding pejorative terms.
Changing our language an essential step towards person-centred treatment and reducing the
stigma and marginalisation of people who use drugs.
Disclosure of Interest Statement:
No conflict of interest
Research abstracts, Linkage to HCV care and treatment among PWID

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