Previously known as the Ontario HIV and Substance Training Program (OHSUTP), the program has evolved over several years. Initially housed at the former Addiction Research Foundation (this became part of CAMH), OHSUTP was formed to increase understanding amongst addiction service providers about how to better support people living with, or at risk for, HIV/AIDS. As the program grew OHSUTP expanded its audiences to include other health and social service providers and broaden the scope of training topics covered to include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C (HCV), and basic harm reduction philosophy and practice. However, a number of things changed and it was time to re-focus our work, audiences and approaches to supporting service providers.
As a provincial organization, it is critical that we keep up with the needs and demands of our audiences. We continue to evolve and adapt with the changing climate of Ontario, the latest emerging trends of substance use, and the science and research that is changing how to speak about HIV and HCV transmission in the context of drug use and harm reduction.
We noticed that the majority of requests for training were focusing on drug use and harm reduction, with fewer requests for HIV and HCV. We also identified the need for more in-depth, ‘second level’, harm reduction training, as well as more focused information and resources on specific substances, overdose awareness and prevention, and addressing current needs of frontline harm reduction workers. Technology also changed, allowing more content and networking opportunities to be delivered online, not just in-person.
With this in mind, OHSUTP changed its name to the Ontario Harm Reduction Network (OHRN) with a greater focus on issues regarding substance use and harm reduction and less time specifically on HIV and HCV – we include content on HIV and HCV as a part of discussion, but not the primary focus, and have developed an “Introduction to HIV” online course. We will also be working with a more defined audience and delivering fewer in-person trainings. This will allow us to develop broader regional networking events, spend more time supporting The Outreach Network, and engage more workers using online learning and webinars.