HRI calls for human rights of people who use drugs and 10 by 20 at UNAIDS PCB

Date: 28 June 2017

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This statement was delivered by HRI’s Campaigns and Advocacy Manager, Olga Szubert, at the 40th meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board in Geneva. The statement was delivered under agenda point four: Unified Budget, Results and Accountability Framework (UBRAF).

UNAIDS/PCB 40th Meeting

Agenda item 4: Unified Budget, Results and Accountability Framework (UBRAF)

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

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

The 2011 Political Declaration on AIDS included a landmark pledge to reduce HIV transmission among people who inject drugs by 50% by 2015. I want to begin my intervention by reminding this PCB of just how starkly we missed that target.

Between 2011 and 2015, HIV infections among people who inject drugs actually increased, by a staggering one third. People who use drugs are 24 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population. Among prisoners, in some settings, prevalence may be up to 50 times higher.

The 2016 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS calls much-needed attention to the insufficient coverage of lifesaving harm reduction programmes. HRI’s 2016 Global State of Harm Reduction report 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.

The 2016 Political Declaration commits to ensure that 90% of key populations have access to HIV prevention services. As recent statistics unquestionably show, UNAIDS needs to work much more closely with member states to ensure that this target is met for people who inject drugs and for prisoners. HRI supports proposals for an accountability framework and calls for the strongest possible indicators on harm reduction to hold member states and UN agencies accountable for commitments made.

Of course, to meet HIV prevention targets we will need more financing. HRI’s 10 by 20 campaign proposes a simple solution: that governments redirect just ten per cent of the $100 billion that they currently spend on ineffective and often abusive drug control strategies to harm reduction. UNAIDS has already endorsed this strategy under the operational recommendations in its 2016 report “Do No Harm”, while data modelling from the Burnett Institute shows that with a redirection of just 7.5%, we could virtually end AIDS among people who inject drugs by 2030. We call on UNAIDS to proactively promote this approach in dialogues with countries, and we urge national governments to take this bold step and put in place a sustainable approach to harm reduction funding that can begin to reverse the alarming increase in HIV infections among people who inject drugs. 

Finally, to protect the health and human rights of people who use drugs and guarantee greater access to services for those most in need, member states must end punitive and repressive approaches to drug use. Only by investing in harm reduction services, alongside ending the criminalisation of people who use drugs, can we truly end AIDS and ensure that no one is left behind.

Thank you for your attention.

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