Statement by HRI

Madame Chair, we wish to make three important points.
First, preventing HIV among people who inject drugs is impossible without a substantial increase in funding for basic harm reduction services – in particular needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy.
It has been estimated that globally less than 10% of what is needed is currently being invested in reducing HIV among people who inject drugs. Nationally, there are harm reduction programmes that have achieved zero new infections among their clients but still find themselves without financial support from their governments. This is inexcusable, and so long as it continues the commitments made at the General Assembly will remain empty. We commend the leading international donors that support harm reduction, and we hope that in the near future the ban on US federal funding for needle and syringe programmes can be again lifted to allow PEPFAR to take a lead on this aspect of HIV prevention in line with its recently adopted blueprint.
We express also our appreciation for the Global Fund and its donors – the largest funding mechanism for harm reduction.However, the international community cannot rely solely upon the Global Fund or on a handful of donor states. Indeed, we remain concerned that the New Funding Model approved by the Global Fund will not sustain the level of funding provided for people who inject drugs in Round 10 in 2010, especially in middle income countries.
Second, and related, is the need to spend scarce funds wisely, and ensure that costs remain low. If the target for coverage of opioid substitution therapy recommended by WHO is to be achieved then affordable, generic medicines must be widely available.  However, free trade agreements continue to stand in the way, while aggressive marketing tactics of pharmaceutical companies damage the very reputation of these essential medicines themselves.
In more than one country Reckitt Benckiser has sought to claim that subutex and suboxone –  medications it has made billions from – are now somehow dangerous. This was no more than a tactic to damage the production of generic producers after the company’s patents ran out, and we commend the US Food Drug Administration for its forthright criticism of the company.
Third, and our final point, is need for supportive legal and policy environments within which these investments will have the most impact. Harm reduction services cannot function if under pressure from police, and work considerably better when police support is secured. People in need of services will not come forward if afraid of prosecution and abuse. This is why we have all endorsed the Support Don’t Punish campaign.
A supportive environment also extends to the international level. What is done here in Vienna matters. In this regard we are concerned that the INCB continues to assert that safe injecting facilities are a breach of the conventions when this is clearly false. Such ill-founded assertions serve only to throw cold water on services that are saving lives and leading the way on HIV prevention.
Madame Chair, we thank the Commission for this opportunity to speak and look forward to strengthening international responses to HIV prevention for people who inject drugs.

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