Drug User Protest on World AIDS Day

DRUG USERS PROTEST ON WORLD AIDS DAY

The Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) a member of INPUD is joining a global protest in solidarity with our Russian brothers and sisters. People who inject drugs in Australia have successfully averted a HIV epidemic in our community. We have achieved this through the widespread availability of injecting equipment, access to pharmacotherapies and most importantly community driven peer education and support initiatives. In comparison our Russian friends have no access to such approaches and have therefor been left alone to die in silence!

One of the greatest health and human rights catastrophes of our times is currently playing itself out in the Russian Federation. In most of the developed world, the AIDS epidemic amongst people who inject drugs (PWIDs) has abated as a result of the implementation and scale-up of evidence-based harm reduction programmes including opioid substitution treatment, needle and syringe exchange programmes. Research shows that countries which implemented evidence-based harm reduction programmes early on, including many countries in Europe, have successfully contained and reversed HIV infection rates among people who inject drugs, most such countries have prevalence rates amongst PWIDs of less than 5%. In Russia, by contrast, an ideological refusal to implement, or even allow such programmes has fuelled a pandemic in which 37.2% of 1.7 million PWIDs are estimated to be living with HIV (although in some regions prevalence rates are up to 75%).

On the 1st of December, International AIDS Day, the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), and local organisations of people who use drugs in several countries around the world will lead protests for the millions of Russian people who use drugs who have needlessly lost their lives. These deaths are directly attributable to the brutal nature of Russian drug policies, which instead of offering treatment, force opiate users into confined detox programmes, which are often little more than prison camps. The evidence for the effectiveness of harm reduction programmes in reducing and reversing HIV transmission is internationally recognized and endorsed by international bodies. Amongst those calling for the implementation of comprehensive harm reduction packages are UNODC, UNAIDS, and WHO. We therefore call upon the Russian government to:

  • Provide the life-saving programmes for those most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, this includes OST and NSP for people who inject drugs.
  • Cease criminalizing the use of illicit drugs, which is in and of itself a major barrier dissuading people who use drugs from accessing the few services that are available.
  • Begin providing Anti Retroviral Therapy to treat HIV to people who use drugs.
  • Replace the current punitive, coercive, discriminatory approach to people who use drugs with a human rights and science based one, including the right to liberty and security of person, the right to health, the right to be free from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, and the right to be free from discrimination.
  • Cease persecuting Russian activists and organisations that are calling for change and the introduction of harm reduction, human rights based measures.
  • Recognise that people who use drugs must be at the forefront of designing programmes and policies aimed at improving our lives. 

Protest: December 1st at Russian Embassy in Canberra from 11:15 am – 1:00 pm

Protests will also be taking place in London, Stockholm, Berlin, Bucharest, New York, Sydney/Canberra, Barcelona, and Toronto. Locations: http://russianembassyprotest.wordpress.com