UNAIDS Report: No Love for Drug Users

The UNAIDS annual report released yesterday is a testament to great progress—new HIV infections and AIDS deaths are down sharply in many African countries that have been devastated by the HIV epidemic. But this success stands in stark contrast to the losses in Eastern Europe, where the HIV toll keeps climbing and remains concentrated among people who inject drugs. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia (where four of every five HIV cases are among people who inject drugs), new HIV infections and AIDS deaths are increasing faster than anywhere in the world, which is little surprise given estimates that people who inject drugs have no access to sterile injection equipment 95 percent of the time. 

Drug users and other criminalized groups at risk for HIV—like sex workers and men who have sex with men—are frequently viewed by governments as political and social embarrassments that are best ignored. As one government official from Russia—the country with the highest number of HIV infections in the region, and the lowest commitment to HIV prevention for the drug users most affected—once told me, “AIDS and drugs will solve each other.” This year Russia didn’t even bother to report on its progress against HIV to the UN. But Russia is not alone in regarding criminalized groups as someone else’s problem. The UNAIDS report notes that in low and middle income countries with available data, 91 percent of total spending on HIV programs for sex workers comes from international sources; as does 92 percent of spending on HIV programs for men who have sex with men, and 92 percent of spending on HIV programs for people who inject drugs.

Spending on law enforcement, of course, is robust. In many countries, detention and prison—where HIV prevention and treatment are unavailable, but rape and unsafe drug injection is routine—can arguably be regarded as a cause of AIDS. Small wonder then that countries who invest in policing and imprisoning those at greatest risk while shorting HIV programs see more death and more infection.

Despite these facts, ‘Getting to zero,’ the UNAIDS slogan for the AIDS response, is actually achievable in epidemics concentrated among people who inject drugs. By increasing access to needle and syringe programs and prescription of medicines to treat HIV, and reducing cravings for and injections of heroin, some countries have stamped out new infections among drug users almost entirely. This won’t happen on a broader scale until more national governments and international donors move from denial to action, change their laws, and prioritize services—including prevention, treatment and legal aid—that work for criminalized groups at greatest risk. We may not have a cure for AIDS, but we can certainly cure the crisis of indifference, and end the cycle where each World AIDS Day brings more bad news for sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.

9 Comments

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.
- Elie Wiese

Dear Daniel Wolfe, I intend to promote equity through the use of mass communication technologies.
Congratulations on your great work.

Hi, Daniel Wolfe. I really Support the Idea that the Government must provides alot of Service, but do also give Space for the law to bite to bring Order as Negative and Positive can Combine to create Power to be use in a good or bad Ends. May all engagements of Human Agents, Associations, Communities be free from the Law ties, but equipt with enough Services to the rising NEEDS and the VALUE of HUMAN LIFE that every HUMAN BEING also have HIS or HER "WEAKNESS" BUT CAN BE TRANSFORM AND EMPOWERED FOR THE GOOD OF ALL CREATION. from Rev Tikeri Biriata. (Solomon Islands).

TB was a real scourge (unluckily rising numbers again due to non-preventive measures) and real preventive measures were taken- poliomyelitis and Salk and Saban. Just read about little Emily who had recurrence of leukemia-put on a new experimental program with HIV- virus (genetically made non-infectious) and it worked. Same formula reversable? (http://leukaemialymphomaresearch.org.uk/).Clean needle programs must continue through WHO - educating national health authorities-supplying them and aid orgs with clean needles/syringes-throw-away/for gays condoms for stopping transmission/sex workers must (male and female)must use condoms- rewards program for using them. Refugees from Maghreb/SubSaharan areas along with financially strapped countries- migrants seeking work -must be tested for HIV /TB to prevent infections. It is in every country's interest to nip HIV in the bud since denying its existence makes everyone vulnerable- even those denying its existence.

Dear Dr. Daniel Wolfe,
You are very much right that almost all the Governments have not been taking necessary actions for rehabilitating the HIV/AIDS positive people especially children. Our Government of India is also not different. In spite of our repeated request, we have not received any support for undertaking rehabilitation programme of orphan HIV/AIDS children.

We are very much glad to inform you that our organization –Liberal Association for Movement of People(LAMP) is a national level voluntary organization working for the comprehensive development of the under privileged since last 32 years in the states of West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Tripura, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Uttarpradesh and National Capital territory of Delhi. In course of our involvement, we have received National Award for Child Welfare from the Government of India and Prakuriti Mitra (Friends of the Nature) from the Govt. of Orissa. LAMP has been also a member of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme(UN Habitat) and FICE International (Established by the UNESCO in 1948 for child residential care) and founder member of the “All India Association of Voluntary Agencies (AIAVA). For understanding more details about our work please visit the website : www.lamp-ngo-india.org and www.shishujagat.org

we would also like to draw your kind attention that we have been successfully running STD/HIV/AIDS prevention programme among 3,500 Commercial Sex Workers and their Clients in three districts of West Bengal namely- South 24 Parganas, Kolkata and Hooghly since 2000. The programmes were being undertaken with the financial assistances of the NACO, Govt. of India, through the West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society(WBSAP&CS), Swasthya Bhawan, Salt Lake, Kolkata, up to August 2009 and now the said programmes are being continued with our own fund.

You would be also glad to know that our organization has been successfully working for the reduction of HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination, in the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa since 2008 and the UNDP through the NACO had directly supported our organization in this regard.

Moreover, as a part of our HIV/AIDS related programme, we have now planned to start a Rehabilitation Home (Kalyandeep) for 100 children (both boys and girls) infected/affected with the HIV/AIDS in hygienic environment, at Ghutiary Shariff , in South 24 Parganas District, West Bengal, India, with the financial support of our friends and associated.

You will be glad to know that a plot of land is already purchased by our organistion and we need your kind support to undertake construction work in order to start the rehabilitation programme.

You are requested kindly to help us in developing relationships with the potential funding agencies for getting support in this regard..

Thanking you with all best wishes and warm regards.

Yours sincerely

Malay Dewanji
Hony. General Secretary, LAMP
66, Surya Sen Street, Kolkata -700009, India
E-mail: malaydewanji@gmail.com

Leadership and global solutions to world problems.can be solve only by fighting the causes. Today Aids is the leading cause of death in Africa and is the forth world wide, 40,000 pregnant women die because of HIV (WHO). Despite the intense international response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, HIV continues to spread causing more than 14,000 new infections every day, 95% of these are in the developing world.fight against corruption in health is central to the struggle for human rights and to end this problems i dont trust winding HIV/Aids without looking into these problems.

It is just so wrong that people who have at risk behaviour are not provided with all the preventative measures that are available and all the treatment that is available. I was part of HIV preventation in gaols and with methadone, bleach, education, condoms we were well pleased at the low rate of infection given the at risk behaviour inmates can engage in.

I firmly support your views that governments should move away from denials and provide really solutions to HIV/AIDS by doubling the number of those receiving ARVs.

Thank for you job, but HIV streading in post -soviet countries has another problem. I used to work for goverment and non-goverment organisations in HIV prevention ant treatment more than 10 years. I think that main gap is leck of primary profilactic, targeted at youth and 35-40 years old population, not only at most-at-risk-groups. Now we have HIV spreading among general population with sexual transmition , you can see it at national statistics (number of HIV+ pregnant women and blood donors) . Your messege about prisons (leck of treatment and prevention ) is wrong.

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