To ‘Equalize’ the HIV response for people who use drugs INPUD (International Network of People Who Use Drugs) is calling for the removal of societal barriers that prevent us from accessing lifesaving services.
We need full decriminalisation of drug use and possession, increased access to comprehensive harm reduction services, meaningful involvement of people who use drugs in decision making bodies and increased funding for networks and responses led by people who use drugs.
- Decriminalisation of drug use and possession.
- Increase access to comprehensive evidence based and human rights informed harm reduction services.
- Inclusion of people who use drugs in the full policy cycle in drug policy
- Improve funding for initiatives to remove societal barriers led by people who use drugs.
The Dangerous inequalities: World AIDS Day report 2022 launched earlier in the week shows that gender inequalities, inequalities in access to treatment between adults and children, discrimination against, stigmatization and criminalization of key populations are some of the intersectional inequalities undermining the efforts in response to AIDS. The report stresses that ‘Facing an infectious virus, failure to make progress on key populations undermines the entire AIDS response and helps explain slowing progress’.
Our Rights, Every Body’s Rights project
This year, INPUD launched Our Rights, Every Body’s Rights project, focusing on building the awareness and capacity of people who use drugs in three countries and across three regions about the new 10-10-10 Global AIDS Targets. These call for the removal of punitive laws that criminalize key populations and the expansion of supportive laws and policies to fight stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence, and gender inequity. The aim is to have less than 10% of countries have punitive laws & policies by 2025, less than 10% of PLHIV (People Living with HIV) and key populations experience stigma and discrimination by 2025 and less than 10% of women, girls, PLHIV and key populations experience gender inequality and violence by 2025.
Decriminalisation of drug use and possession
Despite the ambitious target to achieve less than 10% of countries with punitive legal and policy environments that deny or limit access to services by 2025, the vast majority of still criminalise drug use and possession. Punitive sanctions fuelled by prohibition and a morally driven idea of a drug-free world persist. We need action on decriminalisation of drug use and possession, and drug paraphernalia, including key HIV prevention commodities such as needles and syringes and the denial of access to opiate agonist treatment (OAT) remain persistent. Human rights violations which include the arbitrary arrest and harassment of people who use drugs by police and law enforcement, sometimes simply for possession of needles and syringes, have been seen in South Africa and in many other parts of the world.
“Criminalisation, stigma, and discrimination disproportionally affected our ability to choose with our own body and how we choose our body autonomy. Driven by false, misinformation and lies, it is important to enable sufficient education on drug users’ rights to fight the harms criminalisation brings.” – Angela McBride, Executive Director, South African Network of People who Use Drugs (SANPUD)
Increase access to comprehensive evidence based and human rights informed harm reduction services.
Countries need to increase access to comprehensive harm reduction services and remove the barriers of stigma and discrimination which stop people from key populations living with HIV from accessing treatment. The limited or outright unavailability of services that are specifically designed for women who use drugs continue to disproportionately affect our community.
“The Injecting Drug User Implementation Toolkit’s (IDUIT) values in practice are the effective way to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of our community. Government and UN technical partners, including donors must ensure stockpiles of essential medicine based on the WHO essential medicines, including Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT).” – Olga Belyaeva -Programme Coordinator, Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs (ENPUD)
Inclusion of people who use drugs in the full policy cycle in drug policy
The decision-making bodies tasked with creating policy for people who use drugs must include them in all stages of policy design. The Global AIDS Strategy 30-80-60 targets aim for 60% of societal enabler programmes to be delivered by community-led organisations. People who use drugs must be recognised as experts on our community and its wellbeing.
“People who use drugs have the right to assemble, associate, and organise themselves. Networks led by people who use drugs are and should be considered as experts when participating in political debate and discourse.” – Endy Mulia, National Coordinator of Persaudaraan Korban Napza Indonesia (PKNI)
Improve funding for initiatives to remove societal barriers led by people who use drugs.
The Dangerous inequalities: World AIDS Day report 2022 also looked at the current investment levels in key population programmes. Despite the fact that key populations make up 70% of new HIV cases only 3% of funding is allocated towards key population programming – with a starkly low percentage of this allocated to key population-led organizations – a major shortfall from the 21% of HIV funding that SHOULD be spent on key population programming.