While preparing for today's entry I conducted preliminary research regarding the correlation between the war against drugs and the rise of HIV transmission. While I initially believed that the topic may provide enough information to fill half of a regular post, thus allowing a discussion detailing the conference to a greater degree than I have been able to thus far, I now realize that I need to devote the entirety of today's story to the topic. I'm doing this because the amount of information has exploded in the last week and I'd be doing a disservice to the topic by cutting it short.
According to a post on Neurobonkers.com, the first report was released by the anti-drug-war multi-national organization Count the Costs, preempting the official UN Office on Drugs and Crime's 2012 World Drug Report (see below) and attempts to calculate the "full costs of the war on drugs". The Alternative World Drug Report exposes the failure of governments and the UN to assess the costs of pursuing a global war on drugs, and calls for UN member states to count these costs and explore all alternatives, explains the official summary found on the website.
|The GCDP report accuses the US, Russia and Thailand of ignoring scientific evidence about the relationship between law enforcement policies and HIV rates with devastating consequences.|
The description continues to say that the original goal of the of the war on drugs was to create a drug-free world. Instead, despite more than a trillion-dollars spent fighting the war, according to the UN office on Drugs and Crime, illegal drugs are used by an estimated 270 million people and organized crime profits from a trade with an estimated turnover of over $330 billion a year - the world's largest illegal commodity market.
The second report is by the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP), a collection of former government drug tsars, former world leaders and experts, and outlines the effect that of the drug war on the HIV pandemic, explains Neurobonkers. The report, entitled The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS, also explains how the drug war fuels the HIV pandemic:
- Fear of arrest drives persons who use drugs underground, away from HIV testing and HIV prevention services and into high risk environments.
- Restrictions on provision of sterile syringes to drug users result in increased syringe sharing.
- Prohibitions or restrictions on opioid substitution therapy and other evidence-based treatment result in untreated addiction and avoidable HIV risk behaviour.
- Conditions and lack of HIV prevention measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks amoung incarcerated drug users.
- Disruptions of HIV antiretroviral therapy result in elevated HIV viral load and subsequent HIV transmission and increased antiretroviral resistance.
- Limited public funds are wasted on harmful and ineffective drug law enforcement efforts instead of being invested in proven HIV prevention strategies.
The GCDP held a media conference last month to talk about the commission and discuss the report in greater detail. They also fielded questions from members of the media and the public. The entire conference can be watched below:
People have long known that drug use is linked to disease, but this report is the first clear analysis of how our enforcement of drug laws condemns thousands to AIDS and other life-threatening ailments, explains Statesmanjournal. "Based on the evidence highlighted in our report, we know that countries that treat addiction as a health issue are winning the fight against HIV," says Dr. Michel Kazatchikine, former Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and member of the GCDP. "On the other hand, the countries that have ignored scientific evidence and continue to resist the implementation of evidence-based HIV prevention programs are suffering devastating consequences."
|An international report on the global war on drugs and its role in perpetuating the HIV/AIDS pandemic notes falling infection rates in B.C., which allows safe injection sites. (Darryl Dick / CP)|
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is mandated to assist Member States to provide people who use drugs, prisoners and people vulnerable to human trafficking with evidence-informed comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment and care services, according to the organization's website. Their goal is to "avert HIV infections and related deaths, to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV, and to contribute to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly to halt and reverse the AIDS epidemic." As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, they released the World Drug Report 2012 after the Alternative World Drug Report was publicized.
|Impact of drug policies on recent HIV prevalence amoung people who inject drugs. From the GCDP report.|
The UNODC website states that the report begins with an overview of recent trends and the current situation in terms of production, trafficking and consumption and the consequences of drug use in terms of treatment, drug-related diseases and deaths. The second chapter presents a long-term perspective: it looks at the main characteristics of the contemporary drug problem, the ways it's changed over the last few decades, the driving factors that shaped this evolution, and the directions its likely to take in the future.
Related stories that may interest you:
B.C. 'War On Drugs:' Canadian AIDS Doctors Join International Campaign - Huffington Post