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International News
Call to End War on Drugs Falls on Distracted Ears

July 23, 2010

Drafted by a team of international experts, the official declaration of the 18th International AIDS Conference (IAC) calls for drug policy reform to remove barriers to HIV prevention, treatment, and care. Outside sub-Saharan Africa, almost one-third of all HIV infections stem from injection drug use.

"The criminalization of illicit drug users is fueling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences," the declaration states. "A full policy reorientation is needed."

This marks the second-ever IAC declaration. Its first, the 2000 Durban Declaration, reaffirmed that HIV causes AIDS in response to the AIDS denialist policies of South Africa?s government at that time.

The Vienna declaration proposes that drug users not be arrested but offered science-based treatment programs that have been clinically proven. It also calls on governments to "abolish ineffective compulsory treatment centers," which violate human rights.

Arresting drug users drives them away from HIV prevention and care services "and into environments where the risk of infectious disease transmission (e.g., HIV, hepatitis C and B, and tuberculosis) and other harms is increased," the declaration says.

IAC also calls on governments and international organizations to endorse and scale-up funding for comprehensive interventions. Such efforts include offering injecting drug users? access to sterile syringes, methadone, and HIV/AIDS treatment for those infected.

"In some areas where HIV is spreading most rapidly, such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, HIV prevalence can be as high as 70 percent among people who inject drugs, and in some areas more than 80 percent of all HIV cases are among this group," according to the statement.

Only two governments responded to the declaration: Canada rejected it, and the Democratic Republic of Georgia embraced it. Reports that global AIDS funding is ebbing due to the recession largely overclouded the declaration.

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Excerpted from:
New York Times
07.23.2010; Donald G. McNeil Jr.

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