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TheBody.com/TheBodyPRO.com cover the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)

Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic

Summer 2012

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Summary of Recommendations

The following action must be taken by national leaders and the United Nations Secretary General, as well as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNAIDS and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs:

  1. Acknowledge and address the causal links between the war on drugs and the spread of HIV/AIDS, drug market violence and other health (e.g., hepatitis C) and social harms.
  2. Respond to the fact that HIV risk behavior resulting from repressive drug control policies and under-funding of evidence-based approaches is the main issue driving the HIV epidemic in many regions of the world.
  3. Push national governments to halt the practice of arresting and imprisoning people who use drugs but do no harm to others.
  4. Replace ineffective measures focused on the criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs with evidence-based and rights-affirming interventions proven to meaningfully reduce the negative individual and community consequences of drug use.
  5. Countries that under-utilize proven public health measures should immediately scale up evidence-based strategies to reduce HIV infection and protect the health of persons who use drugs, including sterile syringe distribution and other safer injecting programs. Failure to take these steps is criminal.
  6. The public and private sectors should invest in an easily accessible range of evidence-based options for the treatment and care for drug dependence, including substitution and heroin-assisted treatment. These strategies reduce disease and death, and also limit the size and harmful consequences of drug markets by reducing the overall demand for drugs.
  7. All authorities -- from the municipal to international levels -- must recognize the clear failure of the war on drugs to meaningfully reduce drug supply and, in doing so, move away from conventional measures of drug law enforcement "success" (e.g., arrests, seizures, convictions), which do not translate into positive effects in communities.
  8. Measure drug policy success by indicators that have real meaning in communities, such as reduced rates of transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases (e.g., hepatitis C), fewer overdose deaths, reduced drug market violence, fewer individuals incarcerated and lowered rates of problematic substance use.
  9. Call for public health bodies within the United Nations system to lead the response to drug use and related harms and to promote evidence-based responses. Other bodies, including the International Narcotics Control Board, should be subjected to independent external review to ensure the policies they promote do not worsen community health and safety.
  10. Act urgently: The war on drugs has failed, and millions of new HIV infections and AIDS deaths can be averted if action is taken now.


Commission Members

Aleksander Kwasniewski
Former President of Poland

Asma Jahangir
Human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan

César Gaviria
Former President of Colômbia

Ernesto Zedillo
Former President of Mexico

Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Former President of Brazil (chair)

George Papandreou
Former Prime Minister of Greece

George Shultz
Former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)

Javier Solana
Former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain

John Whitehead
Banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial, United States

Louise Arbour
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Crisis Group, Canada

Maria Cattaui
Former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland

Marion Caspers-Merk
Former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health, Germany

Mario Vargas Llosa
Writer and public intellectual, Peru

Michel Kazatchkine
Professor of medicine, former Executive director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria

Paul Volcker
Former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board

Pavel Bém
Former Mayor of Prague, member of the Parliament, Czech Republic

Ricardo Lagos
Former president of Chile

Richard Branson
Entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom

Ruth Dreifuss
Former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs

Thorvald Stoltenberg
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

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Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.

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