United Nations’ ‘Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’ is for us Global Day for the Human Rights of People who Use Drugs

Pressmeddelande från International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) om Support. Don't Punish!-dagen 26 juni 2014.

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According to the United Nations, the 26th June is ‘International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’. For communities of people who use drugs, it is a day to reflect on the heavy toll that the war on drugs has had on our health and the full realization of our human rights.

Perhaps the greatest health threat posed by the war on drugs and by the systemic criminalization, exclusion and marginalization of the drug using community, is the immense burden of hepatitis C (HCV) borne by people who inject drugs and increasingly evidenced amongst some communities of stimulant users – in particular people who smoke crack cocaine.

Pressmeddelande från International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) om Support. Don't Punish!-dagen 26 juni 2014.

– – – – –

According to the United Nations, the 26th June is ‘International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’. For communities of people who use drugs, it is a day to reflect on the heavy toll that the war on drugs has had on our health and the full realization of our human rights.

Perhaps the greatest health threat posed by the war on drugs and by the systemic criminalization, exclusion and marginalization of the drug using community, is the immense burden of hepatitis C (HCV) borne by people who inject drugs and increasingly evidenced amongst some communities of stimulant users – in particular people who smoke crack cocaine.

As the recently released UNODC Consensus Statement  ‘Science addressing drugs and HIV: State of the Art’ powerfully argues “Criminalization of drug use, restrictive drug policies and aggressive law enforcement practices are key drivers of HIV and hepatitis C epidemics among people who inject drugs”.

This has been the thrust of global drug policy since at least 1971 and the declaration of a “war on drugs” by then US President, Richard Nixon. Since then we have seen the rule book of democratic politics thrown out of the window when it comes to the issue of illegal drugs, and people who use them – human rights violations have become the norm for people who use drugs in most regions of the world, with hundreds of thousands thrown into detention centres in South East Asia, millions incarcerated for victimless drug related ‘crimes‘ in the US, and the systematic denial of access to opiate substitution therapy across the Russian Federation and much of Eastern Europe. Access to basic harm reduction programs has been denied to millions, and remains massively underfunded. As a consequence, in some countries up to 90% of injecting drug users are living with HCV; HIV prevalence continues to rise amongst people who use drugs in Eastern Europe, Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa; and hundreds of thousands die needlessly of overdoses as a result of a lack of access to naloxone (an overdose reversal drug), and safe spaces in which to use drugs.

According to Eliot Ross Albers, Executive Director of the International Network of People who Use Drugs “the human rights violations to which people who use drugs are systematically subject, is driven by moralism, racism, criminalisation and a denial of the basic humanity of people who use illegal drugs. The three international conventions that drive the war on drugs pre-date the HIV epidemic, and nowhere make reference to hepatitis C, overdose prevention, or human rights. To confront the epidemics of repression, HIV and HCV we need a wholesale revision of global drug policy based on evidence and human rights”.

People who use drugs face widespread barriers to organising to defend their rights, as a result of stigma, discrimination, and marginalisation, and are systemically denied access to health services. In a recent policy briefing Nobody Left Behind’ – the importance of integrating people who inject drugs into HCV treatment programs – arguments from a public health and human rights perspective  co-authored with Médecins Du Monde, INPUD is calling for universal access for people who use drugs to harm reduction services, and to HCV treatment, diagnostics and care.

It is time to end repression, end the war on drugs, and guarantee the human rights of people who use drugs.

 

The full report ‘Nobody left behind’ can be viewed here:

English (400k) www.inpud.net/201406-MDM-policy-VHC-en-NobodyLeftBehind.pdf 

English (2.7MB) www.inpud.net/201406-MDM-policy-VHC-en-web-NobodyLeftBehind.pdf