Professor Michel Kazatchkine, the UN Secretary General`s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to address the 23rd International Harm Reduction Conference
Lithuanian Minister of Health Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski , former President of Poland, President Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to address the opening ceremony of the 23rd International Harm Reduction Conference
Lithuanian pop stars Erica Jennings and Jurgis Didžiulis (The Ball and Chain) confirmed as patrons of the event.
Sir Richard Branson and UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov to send video messages in support of the event.
Friday, 8th March 2013 (Vilnius, London) – Professor Michel Kazatchkine, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia will address the 23rd International Harm Reduction Conference taking place in Vilnius, Lithuania June 9-12.
The 23rd edition of the International Harm Reduction Conference is expected to attract up to 800 scientists, politicians, researchers, welfare workers, doctors and drug user activists, from around 60 countries. The three previous editions of the conference took place in Beirut, Lebanon (2011) Liverpool, UK (2010) and Bangkok, Thailand (2009).
The Lithuanian Minister of Health Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski , former President of Poland, President Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Mark Dybul, the Executive Director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will all address the conference opening ceremony on Sunday June 9.
“We’re delighted with Professor Kazatchkine`s participation in the event this year especially given the critical nature of the HIV epidemic amongst people who inject drugs in the Eurasian region,” said Rick Lines, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International (HRI), convenors of the conference.
The Eurasian region, comprising of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Central Asia, is home to over 3.7 million people who inject drugs, representing almost one-quarter of people who inject worldwide. Injecting drug use is driving HIV epidemics in most countries in Eurasia, where an estimated one million people who inject are living with HIV. In addition to HIV, people who inject drugs in the region experience an extremely high prevalence of hepatitis C, as well as high risk of overdose, which is the leading cause of death among opiate users in many countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The conference will focus on key issues affecting the international harm reduction response including the retreat of donors, the lack of national government funding for harm reduction, as well as the influence of repressive law enforcement and human rights abuses that currently take place in the countries of Eurasia.
The theme of the Conference 2013 is 'The Value/s of Harm Reduction'. The theme calls on the urgent need to provide sufficient political and financial support to address the HIV epidemic driven by injecting drug use in many parts of the world, as well as the ethical basis of the harm reduction philosophy.
“The conference also sends a warm welcome to the Lithuanian Minister of Health Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis and thanks him for his timely commitment to attend the conference,” said Serge Votyagov, Executive Director of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN), the local partners of IHRC 2013.
Popular Lithuanian pop group The Ball and Chain have also agreed to become patrons of the conference, confirming their long term commitment to HIV/AIDS over the years.
“The issue of drug use is something we need to speak about more openly in Lithuania,” said Jurgis Didziulis, The Ball and Chain’s co founder. “Drug users are often treated as second rate citizens and ignored. There is a need to engage with them and see the issues confronting them as a public health concern rather than taking a criminalising approach.”
High level key speaker confirmations at IHRC 2013 include:
- President Ruth Dreifuss - former president of Switzerland, member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy
- President Aleksander Kwaśniewski - former president of Poland, member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy
- Michel Kazatchkine, UN Secretary General ‘s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
- Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director (video message)
- Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Lithuanian Minister of Health
- Lord Norman Fowler - Member, British House of Lords; former UK Health Minister Mark Dybul, the Executive Director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
- Craig McClure – Head of HIV/AIDS, UNICEF
- Sir Richard Branson (video message)
Conference programme updates can be downloaded at www.hri.global/conference
Registration is free to all accredited media. To register please email email@example.com
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About Harm Reduction International (HRI)
Harm Reduction International is a leading non-governmental organisation working to promote and expand support for harm reduction. With over 8,000 members worldwide, Harm Reduction International is the largest membership-based global harm reduction association.
HRI works to reduce the negative health, social and human rights impacts of drug use and drug policy – such as the increased vulnerability to HIV and hepatitis infection among people who inject drugs – by promoting evidence-based public health policies and practices, and human rights based approaches to drug policy.
About Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN)
The Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN) is a regional network with a mission to promote humane, evidence-based harm reduction approaches to drug use, with the aim of improving health and protecting human rights at the individual, community, and societal level.