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International News

U.K.: "Abstinence Alone Does Not Work"

April 27, 2012

Several influential charities have decried a government blueprint for a recovery-based drug treatment system as "dangerously and deeply flawed" and an "ideological attack" on established interventions.

The blueprint document, "Putting Full Recovery First," was published in March and is supported by eight government agencies, including the Department of Health. It comforms to the official governmental drug strategy published in December 2010.

Opponents include top HIV/AIDS charities the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and the National AIDS Trust (NAT), and the drugs/human rights charity Release. The coalition wrote to Drugs Minister Lord Henley and Prime Minister David Cameron warning the plan would be "disastrous" for drug-dependent people.

The charities say the plan overreaches governmental strategies to prioritize abstinence and "full recovery" above "proven" drug treatments such as methadone for heroin addiction. Conservative Member of Parliament David Burrowes helped draft the plan and disagrees, adding that charities and service providers collaborated on the document.

The coalition labeled the full recovery concept as disingenuous considering the propensity for relapse and the potential for transmitting blood-borne viruses should "evidence-based interventions" like needle-exchange programs cease. The charities upheld evidence crediting NEPs for the low HIV prevalence among UK injecting drug users (IDUs), and they acknowledged substitute treatments for reducing overdose rates.

Advocates also fear the plan's compensation of service providers per person becoming "chemical-free" trivializes "the complex nature of drug dependence." The coalition noted that the absence of a comprehensive cost analysis could find service providers trying to ensure their compensation by excluding those less likely to recover fully. THT Policy Director Lisa Power admonished Britain against abandoning the harm-reduction models that have helped curb the spread of HIV among IDUs, which also helped protect the heterosexual population.

Back to other news for April 2012

Adapted from:
The Guardian (London)
04.25.2012; Mary O'Hara

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
More on Harm Reduction With Intravenous Drugs

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