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Providing Harm Reduction Services for Drug Users and Sex Workers

Zurich University of Applied Sciences via edX


Did you ever ask yourself how the perspective of substance users and sex workers differs from your own? How can drug consumption rooms work, or how can sex work be practised in a self-determined manner? These and other questions will be explored in the MOOC «Harm Reduction Services for Drug Users and Sex Workers».

The MOOC focuses on social and medical services that respect the human rights and personal autonomy of drug users and sex workers. Switzerland has pioneering institutions in this field and several years of methodological experience. Also, your instructors have many years of experience in the subject area.

The course shares this knowledge by providing professional insights into practice, presenting concrete facilities, and allowing participants to work on real projects. It is aimed at social and medical professionals working with drug users and sex workers worldwide. You will be empowered to work with drug users and sex workers according to human rights principles. You will also learn professional and methodological skills for working with target groups. We will ensure that you will recognize the life situation and living environment of the addressees and support them in their strategies for coping with life.

The course also thrives on you contributing your perspective on the topic and exchanging ideas with the other participants. Together, we will explore the question of how diverse the topic of harm reduction is implemented around the world. You can also work on your project as part of the course and receive instructor feedback on your thoughts and solutions.


Week 1: Introduction and First Steps

Take the opportunity to meet your instructors, our addresses, and your fellow participants. Dive into the topic of an «Ordinary World of Marginalized People» and take a closer look at the lives of our experts by experience.

Week 2: Understanding Substance Use and Sex Work

Uncover why, for what, and how people use psychoactive substances. Distinguish between self-regulated consumption and dependence. Look at different forms of regulation for sex work and different forms of sex work and your role as a social or health care worker.

Week 3: Obstacles and Stigmas

Learn and respect marginalized people's perspectives and analyze the dynamics between living conditions and coping actions. Learn about the discrimination of marginalized people and its effect on their life and well-being.

Week 4: Crossing the Threshold 1

Learn about the different harm reduction services for sex workers in Switzerland and discover that social work in the field of sex work is a complex profession that requires a wide variety of skills. Get to know the Harm Reduction concept and judge its strengths and weaknesses.

Week 5: Crossing the Threshold 2

Get insight into several harm reduction facilities for substance users in Switzerland and discuss their principles and functioning. Reflect on how working in harm reduction services means adapting to the client's capabilities, not overstraining or underrating them.

Week 6: Challenges

Set and justify priorities for harm reduction services that align with your clients' needs. Analyze the different interests of different stakeholders. Manage your skills and emotions and develop an empowering attitude.

Week 7: What if we all were a Team?

Talk about values and attitudes and check your principles. Reflect on your overall progress and knowledge gained, and conclude the course by formulating a vision for a better world.

Taught by

Michael Herzig, Sofia Fuchs and Katja Stolz


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