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Thai HIV/AIDS Advocates Urge Increased Treatment Access for IDUs

May 29, 2009

The Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group recently called on the country to launch a comprehensive harm reduction program for injection drug users in an effort to help curb the spread of HIV, Thailand's The Nation reports. According to the group, many IDUs are unable to access drug treatment and substation therapy because of the stigma surrounding drug use in the country. Karyn Kaplan, director of development and policy for the group, said, "Health care workers have denied many injecting drug users access to an antiviral drug and the use of methadone."

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai recently announced that the country's harm reduction programs have helped to curb the spread of HIV among IDUs, adding that local substitution programs have reduced the number of HIV-positive IDUs and that the country needs increased support from UNAIDS for such efforts. TTAG called for the government to provide prevention and treatment options, such as substitution therapy and needle-exchange programs. The Nation reports that methadone treatment is offered at hospitals across the country as part of the national health care scheme, but many health care workers refuse to administer treatment. In addition, government treatment is offered for 45 days. Kaplan said that the government should revise its policy regarding treatment access for IDUs, as a majority of IDUs are incarcerated and living with HIV or hepatitis-C without treatment access. She called on the government to "implement the international standards of medical treatment for [IDUs], without discrimination and human rights violations" (The Nation, 5/27).

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