Shaun Shelly

I am dedicated to the understanding of drug use and the development of effective drug policy. I studied at the University of Stellenbosch Department of Psychiatry where I graduated cum laude with a Post Graduate Diploma in Addiction Care and is currently in the Addictions Division of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT, where he is an MPhil Candidate in Addictions Psychiatry.

I established South Africa's first non-abstinence focused community program for drug users in Cape Town. I am currently the "Projects, policy, Advocacy and Human Rights" manager for TB/HIV Care Association. I am appointmented at the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pretoria as part of the team implementing a Community Oriented Primary Health approach to address drug use in the City of Tshwane.

I am on the board of advisers to the Harm reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support network (HAMS) and Families for Sensible Drug Policy in the United States. In his role at TB/HIV Care he conceptualized and organized the first SA Drug Policy Week.

Currently my main area of research is on access to opioid substitution therapy and the implementation of low-threshold methadone programs for low-resource communities through public-private partnerships.

I am a 2016 Open Society Foundations International Drug Policy Fellow.

I spent more than a decade doing embedded ethnographic research on drug use and the informal economy in Cape Town South Africa.


2016                       Department of Family Medicine
                                Researcher: COPC Substance Use Interventions Development
University of Cape Town (Current affiliation)
Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health
2014/15/16         MPhil in Addictions Mental Health Candidate
Current research topics:
Experiences and perceptions of medically assisted treatment amongst heroin users in Cape Town.
Implementation and Piloting of opioid Substitution Therapy.
Member of the Addictions Division
Stellenbosch University Department of Psychiatry
2011-2013            Post graduate diploma in addictions care (cum laude)

2011       General Counselling, with distinction.


2016 Open Society Foundations Drug Policy Fellow
2016/17                Awarded one of three African Fellowships for year-long fellowship

2016 SASOP Award of Special Recognition
Awarded for advancing the field of Psychiatry based on notable contribution in advocating for positive change in the field of addictions, addressing the stigma and difficult socioeconomic circumstances associated with addiction as well as your contributions in lecturing and ongoing research.


International Drug Policy Consortium
Africa and MENA representative for the IDPC Strategy Sub-Committee
2016-current      Elected as a regional representative to the Strategy Sub-Committee of the Board which is responsible for the strategic direction and work plans of the Consortium.

Conceptualised and organised the RUN2016 South African Drug Policy Week
Designed complete programme and invited international experts
Established web and social media presence for the South African drug policy debate
Facilitated Civil Society Task Force consultations ahead of UNGASS on drugs

Independent Consultant and National PWUD Co-ordinator
Member of research and implementation team for a demonstration project delivering HIV prevention services to people who inject drugs
Developed group psychosocial interventions for people who inject drugs
Initiated human rights abuse reporting project
Provided inputs for various protocols and documents
Managing grants from Mainline, Open Society Foundation and AmfAR in areas of advocacy, human rights and drug policy.
Developing substance use interventions for people with drug-resistant TB
Developing models for piloting opioid substitution therapy in South Africa
Working across multiple levels from national government to street-level drug users

Program Manager – Substance Use
Established the first non-abstinence based harm reduction focused community resource for people using drugs. We provided out-patient services, case management, assessments, in-patient referrals, detoxification, medical treatment, psychotherapy and counseling for over 300 individuals.
Secured funding for and implemented a schools intervention, currently serving of 300 adolescents.

Program Developer
Developed and ran a therapeutic community for people with drug use problems and those that had been recently released from prison.


Lecturing, Advocacy and Public Speaking
I am a lecturer at:
University of Cape Town Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health
University of Pretoria Department of Medicine (Guest lecturer)
University of Stellenbosch Department of Psychiatry and Medical School (Guest lecturer)
I lecture psychiatric registrars on substance use disorders
I am a regular speaker on the addictions circuit, having spoken at various academic and public forums on a variety of aspects of addiction.
Speak regularly to medical staff at a number of health-care settings
Invited to speak at various international events and conferences, including the Drug Policy Alliance Reform Conference and World AIDS day in Amsterdam
I am regularly invited by the media to talk on issues of addiction and homelessness
I currently supervise two post-graduate students in addiction care at UCT


I am on the advisory board of Families for Sensible Drug Policy (FSDP) and Harm Reduction, Abstinence, Moderation Support Network (HAMS) in the USA.
I chair the advisory board for the DUG and DUCT drug user networks in South Africa
I am a member of the Street People’s Forum and part of the health and substance use working group in Cape Town
Member of South African Addiction Medicine Society (SAAMS - 168)
Completed SAAMS opioid substitution therapy training
Participated in various Medical Research Council and Central Drug Authority consultative workshops
Member of various organisations related to drug policy: Harm Reduction International, INPUD and others.

Newsletter and Web
I publish the Addiction Information Newsletter. This is distributed internationally and has received very positive response from some of the top names in the addiction field. Some of the responses I have received:
Very cool newsletter!”
Dr. Mark Willenbring former Director of Treatment and Recovery Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (USA)
Thanks for the amazing newsletter!”
Dr. Flavio Guzman, Psychiatrist Dr Carlos Pereyra Teaching Hospital, Mendoza
What a fabulous newsletter. Thanks!”
Dr. Tom Hovarth, Founder of Practical Recovery and President of SMART
Hi again, Shaun. I am perusing your site and I find it incredibly rich with information.”
Prof. Marc Lewis, Professor of Developmental Neuroscience, Radboud University and author of “Memoirs of an Addicted Brain” and “The Biology of Desire: Why addiction is not a disease”.


Marks M, Howell S, Shelly S, The Fluidity of ‘Police Culture’: Encountering the Contextual Complexity of Policing Street-level Drug Use, Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 2016 (Accepted, in press)

Shelly S “What should addiction “treatment” look like?” Guest lecture, University of Stellenbosch Department of Psychiatry academic forum, 2016

Shelly S “Introducing Harm Reduction to South Africa: Principles, programmes and progress” Guest lecture, Stellenbosch University Department of Medicine

Shelly S “Pushing Naltrexone as the answer to our heroin problems is unscientific and unethical” The Influence, 2016 http://theinfluence.org/pushing-naltrexone-as-the-answer-to-our-heroin-problems-is-unscientific-and-unethical/

Harker M “Framing drug addiction: An interview with Shaun Shelly” AfricaHealthNews, 2016 http://africahealthnews.com/framing-drug-addiction/

The End of AIDS in 2030: is the Netherlands willing to make the needed policy choices? Together with Monique Middelhof (UNAIDS) and Renet van der Waals (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) Nationaal Congres Soa*HIV*Seks 2015, Amsterdam

Shelly S, Williams C, Lambert A, Hausler H. Pioneering HIV Prevention Services with People Who Inject Drugs in South Africa. HIV Nurs Matters. 2015;28(1).

Shelly S, Sheibe A, Medeiros N, Basson R, Ogle R, Bocai A, Eligh, J. A national Community Consultation with PWID. Poster, 7th SA Aids Conference, 2015

Shelly S, Schneider A, Medeiros N, Basson R, Ogle R, Williams, C. Working with drug using populations: Challenges and lessons learned. Poster, 7th SA Aids Conference, 2015

Shelly S, Williams, C. Harm Reduction – The Basics. Skills Building Workshop, 7th SA Aids Conference, 2015

Shelly S, Harm reduction for methamphetamine. Bridging the Gaps Partners Meeting, Georgia, 2015

Shelly S, Documenting human rights abuses as part of service delivery to injecting drug users. 2015