HRI's Intervention at the Sixtieth Session of the Committee on Narcotic Drugs

Date: 15 March 2017

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The following intervention was made by Harm Reduction International at the Sixtieth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.

"Thank you to the Chair for the opportunity to make this intervention on behalf of Harm Reduction International.

Paragraph 1 of the UNGASS outcomes document commits to minimising the adverse health and social consequences of drug use – in other words to harm reduction.

It encourages states to introduce medication assisted therapy, injecting equipment programmes, antiretroviral treatment and Naloxone for the prevention of overdose related deaths.

This is an historic first for a UN document on drugs, and an important step forward for harm reduction.  But the true value of the UNGASS commitments can only measured in the implementation of harm reduction services at country level. 

Harm Reduction International’s Global State of Harm Reduction report, released in November, reveals that since 2014, no new countries have begun providing needle and syringe programmes, and just three have introduced opioid substitution therapy.  Of 158 countries where injecting drug use is reported, over half still do not offer OST and more than a third do not provide needle and syringe programmes.

UNAIDS figures published in November show that in the five years leading up to the UNGASS, HIV infections among people who inject drugs increased by a staggering one third.

Under the Sustainable Development Goals, UN member states pledged to end AIDS by 2030.  We will not achieve that target if people who use drugs are left behind.  There is but one message that we can take from the UNAIDS and Global State figures: that now it is time for harm reduction.

In order to implement harm reduction services, countries must make funding available. Harm Reduction International’s 10 by 20 campaign calls on governments to redirect just ten per cent of the resources that they currently spend on drug enforcement to harm reduction. Data modelling from our Harm Reduction Decade report, which we released at last year's CND, shows that with a redirection of just 7.5% we could virtually end AIDS among people who inject drugs by 2030. We urge countries to take this bold step and begin to reverse the alarming increase in HIV infections among people who inject drugs. We urge all UN agencies, and those countries which have already made the often difficult but always rewarding decision to invest in harm reduction, to act as champions for these life saving services and support countries to meet the challenge ahead."

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