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Davidson College

Publication Date

Fall 2017

Program Name

Switzerland: Global Health and Development Policy


This paper explores the connections between harm reduction methods and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Switzerland and the United States of America, focusing primarily on the harm reduction methods of needle exchange programs, safe drug consumption spaces, and sex education. While these two countries are largely similar in their culture and geopolitical approaches, there are some key differences in how HIV is approached in each. Switzerland’s somewhat unique approach with relaxed drug policies and more pragmatic, harm reduction based response to the AIDS epidemic sets a model framework for other countries to follow, with comparatively widespread use of needle exchange programs and safe injection facilities. While the United States subscribes to certain aspects of this harm reduction framework, the “War on Drugs” response to the AIDS epidemic led to further ostracization of vulnerable populations that has left lasting impacts, including higher HIV prevalence rates. In addition to the puritanical response to drug use, the United States maintains a somewhat puritanical view of sex which impacts the comprehensiveness of sex education programs in certain areas, which also impacts the prevalence of HIV. When compared with the Swiss approach to both people who inject drugs and sex education, the US is lacking.


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Family, Life Course, and Society | International and Area Studies | Medicine and Health | Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion