Harm Reduction

What does it mean to the ACNL?

Harm Reduction is one of the most effective tools in addressing the health and social problems related to risky behaviour.  Harm reduction is based on dealing with the client “where they are at” – respecting, honouring and supporting their ability to make decisions.  One of these decisions may be to use drugs or to engage in other higher-risk behaviours.  People become harmfully involved in substance use for many social, economic, physical health, mental health and personal reasons.

Harm Reduction strategies encourage people to build strengths and to gain a sense of confidence.  They can help someone move to a state of control from one of chaos.


  • Harm reduction philosophy considers risk taking behaviour as a natural part of our world and suggests that our work should be focused on minimizing the harmful effects of these behaviours rather than focusing on cessation of the behaviour.
  • Harm Reduction philosophy supports the involvement of individuals in the creation and/or delivery of programs and services that are designed to serve them.  These programs and services must be offered in a non-judgemental and non-coercive manner.
  • Harm reduction philosophy recognizes the impact of issues such as poverty, classism, racism, homophobia, social isolation and trauma and other social inequities on both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with risk taking behaviour.

Information provided by The Canadian AIDS Society (2000).  Position Statement on Harm Reduction and HIV/AIDS