The Global 'War on Drugs' Kills: Legal Reform Needed
Jun 26, 2013 - 9:40:18 AM
Initially based on the belief that tough enforcement would stifle a multi-billion drug trafficking industry, this punitive approach has failed to reduce levels of drug use.
Moreover, it has stigmatized a large number of people, impeding their access to lifesaving health services that are proven to prevent HIV infections and reduce harms related toinjecting.
June 26th is observed as the United Nations' International Day against Drug Abuse and
Illicit Trafficking. India HIV/AIDS Alliance joins the global advocacy campaign Support
Don't Punish that is being launched in 21 countries today with solidarity actions in
Yamuna Bazaar and Jahangirpuri in Delhi. This campaign calls on governments to put an end
to an expensive 'War on Drugs' that fuels HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis epidemics,
causes human rights violations and ultimately fails to tackle the world's drug problem.
In India, the lack of access to services can effectively be a death sentence for
people who inject drugs. While some parts of the country, especially the Northeast, have a
range of services for this population, most other states have inadequate access. Drug
users are dying for the need of treatment for a variety of health problems, including
Hepatitis C, HIV, overdose, and detoxification. Some of these services remain
controversial and not part of India's basic service package, while others are often not
available in areas of need.
Expressing solidarity with the campaign, Sonal Mehta, Director, Policy & Programmes,
India HIV/AIDS Alliance said, "Rather than demonizing people who use drugs, we should
humanize them. Rather than jailing them, we should get them the treatment they need.
Rather than punishing them, we must support them."
Current levels of investment are not enough to fill the gap. International donors, UN
agencies and governments need to increase funding and direct resources to ensure targeted
services for harm reduction and HIV programmes for people who use drugs and explore scale
up of effective opioid substitution therapy (OST) services like buprenorphine and
As part of this momentum, the Support Don't Punish campaign calls for the removal of
legal sanctions for low-level drug offences, and the scale-up of scientifically proven
health interventions. These include a package of 'harm reduction' services that have been
fully endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme
on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In order
to do this, governments must remove the policy, legal and financial barriers that exist,
as well as any political or ideological objections.
Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, a lead
partner in the campaign believes, "This 'war' has proven to be unwinnable and
unjustifiably expensive - both in terms of financial and social health costs. It is time
for policy makers to repair this damage, and to leave behind the harmful politics,
ideology and prejudice. It is time to prioritise the health and welfare of people who use
drugs, their families and communities."
About India HIV/AIDS Alliance:
India HIV/AIDS Alliance (Alliance India) is a diverse partnership that brings together
committed organisations and communities to support a sustained response to HIV in India.
Complementing the national programme in India, the organisation works through capacity
building, knowledge sharing, technical support and advocacy. Through our network of
partners, Alliance India supports the delivery of effective, innovative, community based
HIV programmes to key groups affected by the epidemic.
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