Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Georgia becomes the first country to sign the Vienna Declaration

The First Lady of Georgia announced at a breakfast event at the AIDS 2010 conference today that Goergia would sign the Vienna Declaration, the first country to do so. It is the official declaration of the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010).

"The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in  overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed."

This is a significant step forward for this important initiative and is likely to herald a series of national endorsements, at the very least challenging other states to sign or explain why they are oppposed to evidence based drug policy. In stark contrast Canada has been the first country to specifically reject an invitation to sign the declaration - attracting vocal criticism and protest at the Vienna AIDS conference.

In related news a special edition of the Lancet on HIV and drugs was launched at AIDS 2010 yesterday, its cover stating that "We want to see aggressive, state sponsored hostility to drug users replaced by enlightened, scientifically driven attitudes and more eqitable societal responses". The Lancet includes and endorses the Vienna declaration. A video of the impressive conference session (below) at which the special edition was presented is available below (details here). It is particularly worth viewing the presentations that bookend the session, by the Lancet editor Richard Horton, and Prof Chris Beyrer (Johns Hopkins - Baltimore) - both making unambiguous calls for the decriminalisation of drug users. 

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