Monday, March 31, 2008

UN Secretary General calls for decriminalisation of injecting drug users

UN Secretary-General supports calls for Asian governments to amend outdated laws criminalising injecting drug users and other stigmatized groups.

At the launch of a major new report on HIV in Asia (March 26), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for increased health and human rights protections for people living with HIV, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and young people who inject drugs.

"Legislation can also stand in the way [of] scaling up towards universal access -- in cases where vulnerable groups are criminalized for their lifestyles" said Ban Ki-Moon, adding in his statement on the launch of the report; "As you have heard, I fully support the recommendations of the Commission."

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot (left), with United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, during the presentation of the new report “Redefining AIDS in Asia – Crafting an effective response” on 26 March in New York.

The 258 page report by the Independent Commission on AIDS in Asia (established by UNAIDS) is entitled Redefining AIDS in Asia: Crafting an Effective Response. Commenting on the report at the UN launch press conference on March 26th UNAIDS director Peter Piot said : "I look to Asian Governments to amend outdated laws criminalizing the most vulnerable sections of society, and take all the measures needed to ensure they live in dignity,"

Professor C. Rangarajan (right), Chair of the Commission on AIDS in Asia, presented the report of the Commission to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 26 March 2008.

The report urges governments to provide a comprehensive package of harm reduction, including needle exchange programs and opiate substitution treatment, and says governments should abandon counterproductive "war on drugs" programmes. One of its key recommendations is to:

Avoid programmes that accentuate AIDS-related stigma

It is important to recognize that not all interventions aimed at most-at-risk groups are effective, and to note which have been proven to be ineffective, or even counter-productive. In their enthusiasm to initiate large-scale prevention programmes, Governments are seen to adopt certain programmes which accentuate stigma and violate the human rights of most-at-risk groups. These include ‘crack-downs’ on red-light areas and arrest of sex workers, large-scale arrests of young drug users under the ‘war on drugs’ programmes, mandatory testing in healthcare settings without the consent of the person concerned and releasing confidential information on people who are HIV positive through the media.

These initiatives can be counterproductive and can keep large numbers of at-risk groups and people living with HIV from accessing even the limited services being provided by the countries.

Full report (1.6 megs)

UN webcast (real media) of press conference launch ( Piot at 15 mins, Ki-Moon 18 mins)

see also:

Statement from UNAIDS to the March 2008 UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

No comments: