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Presenting author: Maria Plotko
Maria Plotko, Igor Gordon
Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the region with the fastest growing rates of HIV epidemic and deaths related to HIV/AIDS in the world. The main drivers of the epidemy are the criminalization of key populations including people who use drugs, stigma, discrimination, and low coverage or unavailability of HR services. Financial sustainability of harm reduction services is another pressing issue. Keeping all this in mind EHRA team decided to count the cost of criminalization in EECA.
In order to collect the data desk review and additional research were conducted together with the community and NGO representatives from 27 countries of the EECA region. The average sentence for drug possession and use, total number of prisoners, number of prisoners for drug use/possession, HIV prevalence and availability of ART, OST and NSP in prisons, plus the price for keeping the person in prison for a year were "compared" to the number of PWID in a country, HIV among PWID, price of NSP and OST per one person/per year, plus average unemployment benefit.
The idea to estimate the cost of the war on drugs is not new but is rarely used in the advocacy on the national level. Most of our partners are engaged in budget advocacy and even this basic analysis revealed the huge sometimes fourfold difference in the amount of money spent. These calculations do not include the price of chasing and putting people away, and unintended consequences like unemployment, limited educational opportunities, discrimination and shattered ties with the community but hopefully it will help our national partners to convince their governments to allocate more money for harm reduction.