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Pat O’Hare

Executive Director

In the mid-80s I left teaching to become an adviser on drug education for Sefton Council on Merseyside. During the one year in which I was in post I worked with the people running the Mersey Drugs Training and Information Centre (MDTIC) in Liverpool. This was a drop-in centre created to give honest, evidence- based information about drugs to people who used drugs, their families and anyone else who wanted to know. In 1987 I became the Director of the MDTIC. There was much interest in what was being done on Merseyside as far as HIV prevention with people who injected drugs was concerned, and we had visitors from all over the world who wanted to see first hand what was going on.

In 1989, in response to this global interest the Mersey Drugs Journal became The International Journal of Drug Policy. The first editor was Alan Matthews, followed by Peter McDermott and then I was Editor for 10 years from 1990. In 1990 MDTIC organised the 1st International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in Liverpool. This eventually became known as The Harm Reduction Conference, the last one of which in Vilnius was the 23rd.

In 1994 I left MDTIC, which soon became HIT, to continue the global work, which had started with the conference. In 1996 I was one of the founders of the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) and was Executive Director until 2004. I was then Honorary President from 2004 until 2011, when I was elected to the board of directors of Harm Reduction International (HRI), the new name of IHRA.

My work has taken me around the world to advocate for harm reduction approaches to the problems caused by drug use, especially those caused by the sharing of injecting equipment. In this time I have edited three books on harm reduction and I have published extensively on HIV prevention, education and drug policy, and have spoken at many international conferences.

In 1990, with Allan Parry and John Marks, I was co-winner of The Norman E Zinberg Award for Achievement in the Field of Medicine and Treatment of The Drug Policy Foundation, Washington and in 2000 I was given the International Rolleston Award of HRI. Since 2008, I am Visiting Professor in Drug Use and Addiction at Liverpool John Moores University. I am a member of the board of the Middle East and North African Harm Reduction Association, which is based in Beirut. In 2008 I returned to HIT and I am now Executive Director.

I do this work because I believe in a world where people who use drugs are free from stigma; have an equal place in society; have their human rights respected; are provided with accurate, evidence-based harm reduction information; and have the same access to health as everybody else.

Outside work I have many other interests. I am a keen photographer and I have had exhibitions in the USA, UK and Switzerland. I am an active musician and play in a jazz quintet and a soul band. I used to take part in cycle races until recently and I take a fairly big interest in football, especially the progress of Everton FC. I also enjoy walking in the mountains, although my days as a serious mountaineer are long gone, and I still like birdwatching, if much less seriously than in the past. Latterly I have developed a voracious appetite for watching TV series, such as The West Wing, in one go.