Day 2 - UN High Level Meeting on AIDS: AIDS activists call for humane drug policies

Date: 12 June 2008

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a2.jpgOn Day 2 of the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS, a group of civil society organisations including Harm Reduction International collaborated to draft an open letter to senior UN officials to raise concerns about the UN-sponsored International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26th. According the UNODC, goal of the International Day "is to inspire people and mobilize support for drug control." Many governments use June 26th to highlight repressive drug control efforts by publicising executions, arrests and drug seizures.

During the High-Level Meeting on AIDS, HIV activists and organizations issued this letter calling for the UN to "speak with one voice," and address drug use through a health and human rights-based approach rather than through punitive measures.

Tell the UN that good drug policy is good AIDS policy!

The text of the open letter is below

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June 18, 2008

H.E. Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General
H.E. Srgjan Kerim, President, United Nations General Assembly
H.E. Ambassador Léo Mérorès, President of ECOSOC
Eugenio María Curia, Chairman, Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Hamid Ghodse, President, International Narcotics Control Board
Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS
Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Excellencies:

As HIV activists, we are concerned about the impact of contradictions between HIV commitments and drug policies. We will not achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment without protecting the human rights of people who use drugs.

As organizations concerned with ensuring an effective global response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic, we wish to highlight our particular concerns regarding the United Nations-sponsored International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, June 26. Governments often use this day to highlight repressive drug control efforts by publicizing executions, arrests, and drug seizures. For drug users, every day brings the expectation of execution, arrest, and imprisonment.

All Member States of the United Nations have committed to bolstering HIV prevention by reducing the harms related to injection drug use. We call on governments to honor these commitments by giving greater emphasis to proven, effective strategies to combat HIV among people who use drugs.

Outside of Africa, 30% of all new HIV infections occur among drug injectors; the fastest spreading epidemics are currently among those who inject drugs. HIV and AIDS programs cannot be effective if harsh drug policies make people afraid to use them.

The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking highlights the extremes of the traditional enforcement-based approach to drug problems. As we transition from the 2008 High Level Meeting on AIDS to the 2009 High Level Meeting on drugs we need to take a new approach to drug policy – one that recognizes the importance of protection for people who use drugs. The current split in the United Nations between addressing drug use through a public health approach versus a law-enforcement approach causes confusion. It is critical that UN systems speak as one.

For this June 26 and beyond, we call on governments and the UN system to recognize that good AIDS policy requires sound drug policy – measures that address the drugs problem without impeding access to lifesaving HIV services.

cc: Civil Society Task Force, 2008 High Level Meeting on AIDS

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