Agenda item 6(a) – UNODC and HIV prevention related to injecting drug use
Thank you Madame Chair,
This statement is delivered on behalf of the International Network of People Who Use Drugs, which is composed of members of one of the key affected populations in the HIV epidemic. The statement is supported by Harm Reduction International, the International Drug Policy Consortium, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. I am myself a long-term injecting heroin user, and as such, a member of a key affected population, and would like to point out that an essential component of any effective response to the HIV epidemic is the meaningful participation of members of the key affected populations. Our voices must be heard, listened to, and acted upon.
I would like to point out that this is an amended version of our statement as the original was submitted, supposedly to aid the translators, but was vetted and not approved by the Secretariat. En bref, it was censored. I am more than happy to provide the original statement for those who would like to see it.
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 from relevant bodies in the UN family, in particular UNAIDS, has been strong, bold leadership and clear mechanisms for civil society involvement.
Unfortunately, in recent months ambiguity has returned to UNODC leadership positions on HIV prevention amongst injecting drug users. As 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 and makes clear its commitment to them.
In this regard, we are seeking some clarification on the Secretariat’s report to the Commission on HIV and injecting drug use. There appears to be an amendment of the language agreed to in the UNAIDS, WHO, UNODC technical guide with relation to OST. Furthermore, HIV prevention appears throughout the report as a sub-set of drug dependence treatment.
This shift of focus seems to fundamentally change the intent of the agreed technical guide and basic understandings of HIV prevention measures.
We would like reassurance that this was not the intent and that in future due prominence will be given to the hitherto mentioned interventions as being the principal interventions for stemming HIV amongst IDU.
We would also like to point out that criminalising people who use drugs costs more than double the amount spent on drug treatment, such as opioid substitution programmes, in many countries. In addition, the discrimination directed against people who use drugs, and repressive legal environments, often combine to dissuade them from accessing vital services.
Taking into account the human rights infringements, and the social, health and financial cost of criminalising people who use drugs, we call on the Commission to a) carry out a comprehensive analysis of the costs and adverse consequences of the current prohibition driven regime, and b) have a meaningful debate on drug policy reform with the involvement of the human rights, HIV and drug using communities.
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 policy statements 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. As we have heard very clearly in the statement from UNAIDS, harm reduction measures are incontrovertibly effective and as such we call upon UNODC to make their commitment to them clear.
Thank you for your attention.