Thank you Madame Chair,
This statement is delivered on behalf of Harm Reduction International, the International Network of People Who Use Drugs and the International Drug Policy Consortium.
There can be no ambiguity when it comes to global efforts to reach zero new HIV infections. Thirty years of HIV/AIDS has clearly taught us what works and what does not. In addition, a hallmark of the HIV/AIDS response has been strong, bold leadership.
Unfortunately, in recent months ambiguity has returned to UNODC leadership positions on HIV prevention amongst injecting drug users.
To mark World AIDS Day 2011 Harm Reduction International and prominent HIV/AIDS organisations wrote to the UNODC Executive Director, concerned about apparent back-tracking on concrete statements in support of the basics of HIV prevention amongst drug users – needle exchange programmes, and opiate substitution therapy – as adopted by the UNAIDS programme co-ordinating board and the General Assembly.
As the head of the lead co-sponsor within UNAIDS for injecting drug use and prisons it is crucial that UNODC provides strong, unambiguous, leadership on opioid substitution therapy and needle and syringe programmes is critical.
We received no comment from the Executive Director, rather, an unclear reply from the Deputy. This continued a pattern of the Executive Director’s refusal to answer questions on specific HIV prevention measures since taking office. There was no mention of HIV/AIDS in the Executive Director’s opening speech at this session.
This discomfort with HIV prevention has now seeped into the reports before the CND. The note of the Executive Director on HIV/AIDS is testament to this. The very words ‘needle exchange’ and ‘opioid substitution therapy’ are now, it seems, taboo. Where good UNODC programmes in these areas are reported, they are buried under euphemism.
In the report the Secretariat also seems to have amended the agreed wording of the WHO, UNAIDS, UNODC technical guide on HIV prevention among IDU in order to prioritise drug dependence treatment.
Thereafter, throughout the report, HIV prevention is framed as a sub-set of drug dependence treatment. This fundamentally changes the focus of the agreed technical guide and basic understandings of HIV prevention measures.
Madame Chair – Last year the CND adopted resolution 54/13 “Achieving zero new infections of HIV among injecting and other drug users”. Within it, the Commission called on UNODC to continue its efforts in promoting evidence based interventions to prevent HIV among people who inject drugs. This necessitates clarity and strong leadership. And it demands the meaningful participation of key affected populations.
There can be no ambiguity when it comes to reaching zero new infections. Leadership from UNODC and clear statements from its Executive Director in support of the basics including opioid substitution therapy and needle and syringe programmes are essential to support the work of UNODC country teams, and for the Office to play its full part as a co-sponsor in the UNAIDS family.
Thank you for your attention.