We want you to meet Sérgio Rodrigues, 43, APDES Peer Educator.
He is a Peer / Peer Educator and activist for the rights of people using psychoactive substances. His hobbies include Photography / Video, Film and Performing Arts.
How did you get to know APDES and how did this relationship begin?
In 2008 I started a training on “Managing Drug Users and Sex Workers Associations” at APDES, the promoter of this training that took place over 3 months. After the completion of the training in 2009, I proposed to the APDES management to start working on the Harm Reduction Team, as Peer, proposal initially accepted under the Life Employment program, starting in November 2009 and later under an employment contract that has remained until today.
I was the first Peer Educator to work in the area of RRMD, in a contractual and professional manner, and integrating a new professional figure (from Peer Educator) into the national services available for PUD in Portugal.
What motivated me most in my first contact with APDES was the openness and respect for my decision to continue using psychoactive substances. I was substance dependent for 11 years after joining a low threshold requirement program (Methadone) in which I successfully completed over a period of 1.5 years. After this abstinent period, I continued to use substances sporadically.
What is a Peer / Peer Educator?
A Peer is a person who knows the reality, in this case of Harm Reduction, in the first person. It has easy access to the places of consumption and a language very own and proper to the context and experience.
A Peer also has the ease of quickly empathizing with people using psychoactive substances and an important proximity from the perspective of the harm reduction organization.
What are the biggest challenges and needs you still face in harm reduction in Portugal?
Pair professionalization is one of the needs. Concerning harm reduction services (eg drop-in, street teams) there could be greater coordination by Peer Educators, always with the involvement of all necessary technicians involved. Advocating that heroin should be able to be prescribed , there should also be more safe assisted consumption rooms. Finally, I argue that harm reduction should be a permanent service with 100% state funding.