Harm Reduction International statement at the UN Human Rights Council - MDG 6 summit, Russia and harm reduction

Date: 27 September 2011

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Today, HRI's human rights analyst, Eka Iakobishvilli, delivered a statement at the UN Human Rights Council calling attention to the forthcoming Millennium Development Goal 6 summit taking place in Russia

With Russia's ongoing neglect of its own epidemic and its abuses against people who inject drugs, the summit must serve as a means to talk openly and in depth about international scale up of harm reduction, and the need for urgent action in Russia.

The intervention was made jointly with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the OSF International Harm Reduction Development Program and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network.

Agenda Item 8 - General debate - 18th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 27th September 2011

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, Millennium Development Goal 6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) and the right to health in Russia

Thank you Mr/Ms. President

This is a joint statement of Harm Reduction International on behalf of 30 other regional and domestic NGOs working in the area of human rights, harm reduction and HIV/AIDS.

The links between HIV/AIDS and human rights are clear. In two weeks, state leaders will gather in Moscow for the G8 summit on millennium development goal 6 – that is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action remains a fundamental document for the implementation of all human rights. They are closely observed in Millennium Development Goals.

The nature of the epidemic and the location of the summit demand a focus on injecting drug use

Injecting drug use remains a major driver of the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In Russia the number of opiate users is estimated at 1.7 million, the majority of whom inject drugs and around 80% of HIV cases in this country are related to injecting drug use. Very little attention is given to the protection of human rights of those people who inject drugs.

Opioid Substitution Therapy is illegal in Russia, and Needle and Syringe Programmes neglected by the government. These are the basics for the prevention of HIV amongst injecting drug users. Criminalization of drug users has fuelled the HIV (and TB) epidemic in Russia, and police abuse, pre-trial detention and prisons have become structural causes for more infections and illness.

With such policies Russia can neither fulfil the right to health of people who inject drugs or are affected by the HIV/AIDS, nor can it reach MDG 6.

The MDG 6 summit in Moscow serves as a magnifying glass for these problems, and Russia’s neglect of its own HIV epidemic and those most at risk.

We call upon participants at the G8 summit to give adequate and proportionate attention to the injecting drug use and HIV epidemics in Russia;

Russia must scale up and adequately fund specialised treatment and harm reduction interventions for those at risk of HIV infection, including people who inject drugs in line with its human rights obligations. 

Previous Harm Reduction International statements at the Human Rights Council are available here and here

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