At risk populations

40 millions

people in the world are sex workers


of hepatitis C new infections are contracted by injecting drug users

33 million

people in the world live with HIV-AIDS


For many years Doctors of the World has been actively involved in HIV prevention and care services. But some groups of people, such as drug users, sex workers and marginalised homosexuals, did not have access to these services.  So many people who find themselves without medical care, simply because of who they are or what they do, which increases their exposure to HIV and viral hepatitis infections.

  • Ramson, aged 41

    “I was born in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. I was 29 when I took heroin for the first time. It started when a friend handed me a joint that had a mixture of tobacco and brown sugar heroin from Pakistan and I ended up smoking for about ten years. Then I started injecting white heroin, because it’s cheaper and easier to get, and I shared syringes with other users. I’ve contracted tuberculosis twice and I’m on antiretroviral treatment because I’m HIV-positive.”

  • Jennifer, 25 ans, se prostitue à Paris

    Jennifer, aged 25

    “I’m from Nigeria and I live in Paris [Sex workers/France]. I’ve been a sex worker for 18 months. Life on the street is really hard. I’m always scared of being attacked. When a client asks me for unsafe sex, I refuse. But last time, the condom broke. I’m foreign so I don’t dare go to the hospital. I’m scared of what they’ll think of me.”

  • Datu, recycleur de déchets électroniques à Manille, aux Philippines

    Datu, aged 33

    I live near Manila in the Philippines in a very poor district. To earn a bit of cash, I recycle electrical goods like air conditioning units, TVs, computers, fridges and washing machines. I take them apart to get the copper, plastic, electronic chips and so on. I know that chemicals like mercury endanger my health but it means I can buy rice to eat.

What we do

What is harm reduction  

Doctors of the World runs a range of programmes aimed at reducing the risk of infection from drug use, sexual practices and exposure to toxic substances. In addition to our health and prevention activities, we advocate for reform to policies and legislation that jeopardise people.

Harm reduction means not judging others and accepting different practices and lifestyles.

© Olivier Papegnies
© Olivier Papegnies

Preventing infectious diseases

Doctors of the World runs prevention and education programmes related to risks associated with injecting drugs. We distribute sterile injection kits, collect contaminated equipment, inform users about risk and screen for transmissible diseases. We also campaign for the setting up of supervised injecting facilities to reduce risk. Similar initiatives are available for sex workers  and homosexuals marginalised by their cultural or political environment. We distribute condoms, offer screening and provide advice on accessing healthcare services. We are also lobbying for the treatment against hepatitis C to be available at a price that everyone can afford.

Fostering mutual support and experience-sharing

Doctors of the World establishes a community response which includes calling on people exposed to risk to participate in its prevention initiatives.Many peer support workers, such as former drug users, draw on their experience  to work for the programme and harm reduction actions become drivers of real social change .

Combatting stigma 

Doctors of the World advocates for the decriminalisation of drug users and sex workers who are often stigmatised. We call on public authorities to reform laws and national and international rulings criminalising and penalising these people’s practices and lifestyles and to foster an approach founded on the interests of public health and human rights.

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