Criminalization of Drug Use is Fueling the Global HIV/ AIDS Pandemic
Landmark Report Calls for Decriminalization and Expansion of Proven, Cost-Effective Solutions to Reduce HIV/AIDS
The International AIDS Conference, the world’s largest gathering of HIV/AIDS experts and activists, will be held in the U. S. for the first time in 22 years this July 22-27, in Washington DC. Distinguished world leaders and public health advocates are mobilizing with a clear message: Criminalization of drug use is fueling the global HIV/ AIDS pandemic.
Over the past two years, demands to implement evidence-based drug policy have grown louder, as exemplified by the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s groundbreaking new report, launched on June 26th. The report explains how the global war on drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual and injecting partners.
Research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force people who use drugs away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated. The risk of contamination is higher in countries that practice mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, where inmates don’t have access to clean syringes and treatment – playing a major role in spreading the pandemic. Today, UNAIDS and WHO estimate that there are 34 million people worldwide living with HIV – and injection drug use accounts for one-third of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
How the drug war fuels the HIV pandemic:
● Fear of arrest drives persons who use drugs underground, away from HIV testing and HIV prevention services and into high-risk environments.
● Restrictions on provision of sterile syringes to drug users result in increased syringe sharing.
● Prohibitions or restrictions on opioid substitution therapy and other evidence-based treatment result in untreated addiction and avoidable HIV risk behavior.
● Deficient conditions and lack of HIV prevention measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks among incarcerated drug users.
● Disruptions of HIV antiretroviral therapy result in elevated HIV viral load and subsequent HIV transmission and increased antiretroviral resistance.
● Limited public funds are wasted on harmful and ineffective drug law enforcement efforts instead of being invested in proven HIV prevention strategies.
Dr. Michel Kazatchikine, former Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, will present the report’s findings at the 2012 International AIDS Conference, where he will address the failure of the war on drugs and the causal links between criminalization of drug use the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“Based on the evidence highlighted in our report, we know that countries that treat addiction as a health issue are winning the fight against HIV,” says Dr. Kazatchikine. “On the other hand, the countries that have ignored scientific evidence and continue to resist the implementation of evidence-based HIV prevention programs are suffering devastating consequences.”
The Global Commission on Drug Policy is comprised of 22 world leaders, with seven former heads of state such as presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), Ruth Dreifuss (Swizterland), Cesar Gaviria (Colombia) and Alexander Kwasniewski (Poland), and influential personalities such as Sir Richard Branson, Paul Volcker, Louise Arbour and George Shultz, among others. The Commission supports the decriminalization of drug use and a greater emphasis on public health approaches – including proven, cost-effective solutions to reduce HIV/AIDS like sterile syringe access, safer injection facilities, and prescription heroin programs.
Launch of the report in London:
Agenda for the Global Commission on Drug Policy at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC:
Symposium: Twin Epidemics (July 20)
This pre-conference symposium, hosted by the International AIDS Society and the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), will bring together medical experts, policymakers, law enforcement officials, healthcare providers and civil society representatives in an effort to promote a deeper understanding of how law enforcement, policy and legal reform and public health programming can work together to begin to end the HIV epidemic among people who use drugs. Presenters will include the U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy; Michel Kazatchkine, former Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy; Dr. Julio Montaner, Immediate Past-President of the International AIDS Society; and Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Ronald Reagan Building – Pavilion Room
1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington, DC
Breakfast & Welcome: 8:30am
Registration desk will be open from 2.00 to 3.30pm on July 19 and 7:30 on July 20
For more information and to register, see here.
International AIDS Society Drug Policy Presser (July 24)
Press conference room 3. Media Centre, Lower level, Convention Centre
Tuesday July 24, 1:00-1:45pm
– Chris Beyrer , IAS governing Council member, Director, Johns Hopkins Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program (moderator)
– David Wilson, Head of HIV/AIDS Department, World Bank
– Rick Lines, Executive Director, Harm Reduction International
– Michel Kazatchkine, Commissioner, Global Commission on Drug Policy
– Alexei Kurmanaevskii, INPUD (Russian drug user)
– Lord Norman Fowler, Chair of the House of Lords’ Select Committee on HIV and Vice Chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV & AIDS