Side Event – UNODC’s ‘High Priority Countries’ for HIV Prevention

UNODC are anguished that the international community is missing its target of a 50% reduction in HIV among people who inject drugs by 2015. Access to proven harm reduction services is too low around the world.

The UNODC HIV Team has responded to this by working with civil society organisations to identify 24 ‘high priority countries’ (HPCs).

The International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), who are co-chairing this session, stressed the need for better meaningful participation of people who use drugs around the world, and the need for more work on the ‘critical enablers’ that will allow for progress to be made.

The HPCs were selected through a consultative process based on epidemiology, the readiness for change, and the perceived capacity within the UNODC country offices and civil society. They cover Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and Africa. In Latin America, the focus is on non-injecting stimulant users as well as injecting drug use. The overriding focus is on HIV prevention.

Once the 24 HPCs had been identified, the UNODC HIV Team reallocated its own resources and staff accordingly – to make sure that there was at least one dedicated HIV adviser in each country, supported by regional HIV advisers. In each country, key national stakeholders are engaged to agree work plans, obstacles and priorities. Common challenges include data shortages, lack of harm reduction services, and unsupportive policies and practices. Actions planned include the gathering of strategic information in 10 countries, law enforcement sensitisation workshops.

The Kenyan Network of People who Use Drugs (KenPUD) are directly engaged in this work – they have outreach workers and peer educators, are closely engaged in national policy advocacy, and are part of the global working group of civil society organisations that liaise with UNODC on this programme. They also took part in the Support. Don’t Punish campaign last year, and are attending their first Commission on Narcotic Drugs this year.

The Law Enforcement and HIV Network (LEAHN) has been engaged in the law enforcement workshops to sensitise and build the capacity of police officials, particularly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They have seen an increased commitment to working with civil society – and for many participants it was the first time that they had taken part in trainings of this kind.

The final presentation came from a law enforcement representative from CNCDC in Zanzibar, Tanzania (one of the 24 HPCs). They do not have good coverage of the comprehensive package of nine harm reduction interventions – but progress is being made alongside civil society organisations. They have a roadmap to ensure flexibility in the law to better support health services, and are working to establish OST and other programmes. They have provided “sober house” services for 5,140 people (incorporating arts, crafts and sports), but with a very high relapse rate of 55%.

In Viet Nam there is already good experience of law enforcement and civil society working together – both in workshops like those mentioned above, but also outside of these. They have been able to bring together law enforcement officers and people who use drugs in a friendly, open way.

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