UNAIDS released a new report today (click on the image below left to download). While the report focuses on policy and interventions from an HIV perspective, the underlying message is clear: We need a new approach to ALL "illicit" drugs. The first of five policy recommendations highlights the failures of current policies by simply stating what the purpose of drug policy should be:
"THE OVERARCHING PURPOSE OF DRUG
CONTROL IS FIRST AND FOREMOST TO ENSURE THE HEALTH,
WELL-BEING AND SECURITY OF INDIVIDUALS, WHILE
RESPECTING THEIR AGENCY AND HUMAN RIGHTS AT ALL TIMES."
Read the press release below and by clicking READ MORE
GENEVA, 15 April 2016--Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, which will take place from 19 to 21 April in New York, United States of America, UNAIDS has released a new report entitled Do no harm: health, human rights and people who use drugs.
(TB/HIV Care Association (THCA) are proud to have contributed to this report through the provision of harm reduction services in three cities. The work of THCA consultant Dr Andrew Scheibe is also referenced in the report. We also acknowledge the role of our funders and other supporters in this pioneering work.)
The report shows that the failure of many countries to adopt health- and rights-based approaches resulted in no reduction in the global number of new HIV infections among people who inject drugs between 2010 and 2014. The world has missed the United Nations General Assembly’s target set in 2011 to reduce HIV transmission among people who inject drugs by 50% by 2015.
“Business as usual is clearly getting us nowhere,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “The world must learn the lessons of the past 15 years, following the example of countries that have reversed their HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs by adopting harm reduction approaches that prioritize people’s health and human rights.”
The UNAIDS report presents the evidence base for five policy recommendations and 10 operational recommendations that countries should apply to turn around their HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs. These recommendations include the implementation of harm reduction programmes to scale and the decriminalization of the consumption and possession of drugs for personal use.
Data demonstrate that countries implementing health- and rights-based approaches have reduced new HIV infections among people who inject drugs. In other countries, strategies based on criminalization and aggressive law enforcement have created barriers to harm reduction while having little or no impact on the number of people who use drugs. Imprisoning people for the consumption and possession of drugs for personal use also increases their vulnerability to HIV and other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and tuberculosis, while incarcerated.
UNAIDS has developed the UNAIDS 2016–2021 Strategy to put the world on track to ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030—a target within the Sustainable Development Goals. A critical target within this Fast-Track approach is the expansion of a combination of HIV prevention and harm reduction services to reach 90% of people who inject drugs by 2020.
Achieving this target would require annual investment in outreach, needle–syringe distribution and opioid substitution therapy in low- and middle-income countries to increase to US$ 1.5 billion by 2020—a fraction of the estimated US$ 100 billion already spent each year to reduce the supply of and demand for narcotic drugs. In many middle-income countries with large populations of people who inject drugs, harm reduction is funded predominantly by international donors and private foundations.
The UNAIDS report provides many examples of countries that are delivering better outcomes for people who inject drugs by adopting a health-centred approach.
“Health is a human right. Investment in people-centred policies and programmes for people who use drugs is the crucial foundation for a global drugs policy that not only saves lives but is also cost-effective,” said Mr Sidibé.
The UNAIDS Fast-Track approach has a set of targets for 2020 that include reducing new HIV infections to fewer than 500 000. It also calls on countries to ensure that 90% of the more than 12 million people who inject drugs worldwide have access to combination HIV prevention services, including needle–syringe programmes, opioid substitution therapy, condoms and access to counselling, care, testing and treatment services for bloodborne viruses, such as HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis. Achieving these targets will be a significant step towards ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.
We will be adding the latest drug policy news here, as well as providing updates for the drug policy week.
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