July 31, 2012
IRIN reports on HIV prevention efforts aimed at injecting drug users (IDUs) in Thailand, noting HIV prevalence among Thai IDUs is "among the highest in the Southeast Asia region, according to the Global AIDS Response progress report by" UNAIDS. "Providing free clean needles and syringes has proven to be the safest and most effective way to prevent new infections among injecting drug users," but "the Council of State, Thailand's central legal advisory body, has interpreted any needle distribution program as promoting drug use, Petsri Siriniran, director of the National AIDS Management Centre in the Public Health Ministry's Department of Disease Control, told IRIN," the news service writes. However, "the ministry is collaborating on a pilot project, run by PSI since 2009, in which counseling and sterile syringes are provided through drop-in centers and outreach services in 19 of Thailand's 76 provinces," according to IRIN.
"PSI has partnered with various local NGOs and support groups for people living with HIV to distribute clean needles to the country's estimated 40,000 IDUs, 20 percent of whom share needles, according to 2010 government figures," IRIN notes. "Since 2009, PSI has distributed more than 300,000 needles and syringes, reaching up to 8,000 drug users, but workers say they operate on the margins of the law," the news service writes. "A 2011 World Bank review of HIV prevention among IDUs in Thailand indicated that needle-exchange programs could be one of the key factors in decreasing HIV infections among them," IRIN notes, adding, "The 2012-2016 national AIDS strategy calls for a review and amendment of current legislation that prohibits needle exchange and criminalizes drug users" (7/31).