Activists Push for Heroin Help in UN Russia Visit
February 11, 2011
The London-based International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) and 16 HIV rights groups are urging the UN's rights mission to lobby Russia to legalize methadone in order to fight HIV/AIDS and heroin addiction. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is scheduled next week to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, government officials and 60 rights campaigners during a five-day visit to Moscow.
Russia, home to 1 million HIV-positive people, has one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world, according to the World Health Organization. The epidemic is being fueled by as many as 3 million heroin addicts, many of whom use dirty needles, local health groups say. However, Russia refuses to support harm reduction programs such as needle exchanges, or to legalize methadone to treat heroin addicts, which WHO deems essential in fighting the epidemic.
According to Russia's Health Ministry, methadone's effectiveness is unproven. Russia's chief medical official, Gennady Onishchenko, has referred to it as "just another narcotic."
"This is a national health crisis and a human rights priority in Russia that must be raised at the highest levels," said Damon Barrett, an IHRA senior analyst. "The fact that the government's policy is so incomprehensible is what makes it so frustrating."
HIV-positive Russian activist Irina Teplinskaya will meet with Pillay during her visit, according to the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for which Teplinskaya volunteers. Injection drug users with HIV are less likely to receive antiretroviral therapy, she said. "Because there is no opioid substitution therapy in Russia, drug-dependent people are not able to receive treatment for HIV," said Teplinskaya, who is also a heroin user.
02.11.2011; Amie Ferris-Rotman
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.
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