Monday, April 20, 2009

Media Release, Drug users have human rights too, says Global Fund head, Bangkok


Drug users have human rights too, saysGlobal Fund head

Monday April 20, 2009

Recognising the human rights of drugusers is essential to preventing HIV and mitigatingthe public health impact of drug use, Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fundto Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said today at the opening ofthe International Harm Reduction Conference in Bangkok.

"Human rights are drug users’ rights, as well. Because in too many countries, still,in too many police cells, in too many health services, and in too many prisons,drug users are treated as less than human," said Kazatchkine.

Thailand is the recent recipient ofa US$100 million grant from the Global Fund with the goal of reducing new HIV infections by providing universalaccess to HIV prevention services in selected provinces for most at risk populations:female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDU)and migrant workers.

Kazatchkine said it was encouraging to see that some countries who had traditionally employed a lawenforcement approach to drug control were now moving cautiously towards apublic health approach, including many countries in Asia.

“Let us say, to China,to Malaysia, to Vietnam and to Thailand: keep up the good work. Byembracing harm reduction, you are on the right side of history,” he added.

The lack of comprehensive harm reduction services for injecting drug users in Thailand leavesHIV prevalence among that group at high levels of 30-50 % during the past 15years.

“Thailand needs to learn from the success of its HIV/AIDS campaign in the 1990’s whenHIV/AIDS was accepted as a problem and addressed openly and successfully,” saidPratin Dharmarak, Country Representative of PSI. “Yet, today there is verylimited understanding about drug use in Thai society. While injecting drugusers are at the highest risk of HIV,they are among the most stigmatized and hardest to reach populations,” sheadded.

Injecting drug use accounts for 10 per cent of HIVcases globally and 30 per cent outside sub-Saharan Africa,yet resources for prevention of HIV transmission among injecting drugs users isnot commensurate with need.

“Only 2-3 percent (US$200m to US300 million per year),of all the available resources for AIDS is spent on harm reduction. It isclearly not enough. If we are serious about reducing HIV infection amongstinjecting drug users then we are going to need between US$2 and US$3 billionthis year and next to get anywhere near the kind of coverage that is going tomake an impact,” said Professor Gerry Stimson, Executive Director of theInternational Harm Reduction Association.

About the International Harm Reduction Association:

TheInternational Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) is the leading organisationpromoting a harm reduction approach to all psychoactive substances on a global basis. IHRA existsto prevent the negative social, health, economic and criminal impacts ofillicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco for individuals, communities and society.

About the conference:

HarmReduction 2009 isexpected to attract some 1000 delegates from around 80 countries. The event hasbecome the focal point for knowledge sharing, networking and promotingevidence-based best practice in the field of harm reduction. The delegatesinclude front line workers, researchers, policy makers, politicians, peoplefrom international organisations, people who use drugs and people working incriminal justice. These events have helped to put harm reduction on the map andto coordinate advances, innovations, evidence and advocacy in this field forthe last two decades.


Imperial Queen's Park Hotel, 199 Sukhumvit Soi 22, Bangkok 10110, Thailand


Monday April 20 - Thursday April 23, 2009

Further information: In Bangkok: Michael Kessler, Harm Reduction 2009 Media Relations
Mobile+66 (0) 845 311 327

No comments: