Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

How the Global War on Drugs Drives HIV and AIDS

Global Commission Calls for Drug Decriminalization and Expansion of Proven, Cost-Effective Solutions to Reduce HIV/AIDS – Including Sterile Syringe Access, Safer Injection Facilities, and Prescription Heroin Programs

 

From the 29 June 2012 article at Time.com

The war on drugs is driving much of the global AIDS pandemic, increasing new infections among injection-drug users in the U.S. and elsewhere, according to a new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy...

(A PDF of the report may be found here***)

bout one-third of all new infections outside of sub-Sarahan Africa occur in injection-drug users.

Since the 1990s, effective public-health strategies to curb HIV transmission in drug users have led to drops in new infections in most countries. But over the same time period, seven countries have seen a 25% increase in new infections. Not coincidentally, five of these countries — mainly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia — employ aggressive drug war strategies, such as arresting and incarcerating users for drug or needle possession…

…These tactics have been shown to be ineffective not only for controlling drug use, but also for reining in the spread of HIV. Why? Because the fear of recrimination prevents drug users from seeking clean needles — a major risk factor for HIV infection. In the U.S. as well, areas with the highest infection rates are those that have the most aggressive drug policies, the report shows. The solution is straightforward, if drastic; it requires a complete overhaul of current drug policy: drug users need treatment, not imprisonment, and drug possession needs to be decriminalized, the authors argue.

 

***

The Commission’s recommendations are summarized here. They include:

- Push national governments to halt the practice of arresting and imprisoning people who use drugs but do no harm to others.

-  Measure drug policy success by indicators that have real meaning in communities, such as reduced rates of transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases, fewer overdose deaths, reduced drug market violence, fewer individuals incarcerated and lowered rates of problematic substance use.

- 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.

- 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.

How the drug war fuels the HIV pandemic:

- Fear of arrest drives persons who use drugs underground, away from HIV testing and HIV prevention services and into high-risk environments.

- Restrictions on provision of sterile syringes to drug users result in increased syringe sharing.

- Prohibitions or restrictions on opioid substitution therapy and other evidence-based treatment result in untreated addiction and avoidable HIV risk behavior.

- Deficient conditions and lack of HIV prevention measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks among incarcerated drug users.

- Disruptions of HIV antiretroviral therapy result in elevated HIV viral load and subsequent HIV transmission and increased antiretroviral resistance.

- Limited public funds are wasted on harmful and ineffective drug law enforcement efforts instead of being invested in proven HIV prevention strategies.

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June 29, 2012 - Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , , ,

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