| ©IAS/Steve Forrest/Workers' Photos
The First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Roelofs, today endorsed the Vienna Declaration witha crowd of media, Dr. Evan Wood, Founder of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and one of the authors of the declaration, and Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, looking on.
The declaration – the official declaration of AIDS 2010 – is a scientific statement seeking to address the HIV epidemic among persons who inject drugs, among other harms, through the incorporation of scientific evidence into drug policies. The Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, Irakli Giorgobiani, and the Deputy Chairman of Parliament of Georgia, George Tsereteli, also signed the declaration.
By Julio Montaner, MD, AIDS 2010 Chair, Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and President, International AIDS Society
I support the Vienna Declaration
because we, as a global society, are at a critical juncture with respect to our efforts to control the spread of HIV among injection drug users, and we must not let it pass us by.
Thanks to a critical mass of scientific evidence we know with certainty we can halt the spread of HIV in this population simply through providing HIV treatment, clean needles and evidence-based addiction treatments like opioid substitution therapy, supervised injection sites and medicalized heroin.
|(c) International AIDS Society/Simon Deinir/SDR Photo
Remarkably, there is also a critical mass of scientific evidence regarding the unintended negative consequences of policies based exclusively on drug law enforcement. We have to recognize that the war on drugs has not only failed to reduce illicit drug supply and use, but it has also resulted in a range of human rights violations, drug market violence and HIV and HCV epidemics among users. More...
By Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Professor and Head of Infectious Diseases at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Co-Chair, AIDS 2010 Scientific Programme Committee
I support the Vienna Declaration because for too long too many individuals and families around the world have suffered and lives have been lost from drug policies that are not based on sound evidence.
To date, drug policies have been used to discriminate against and criminalize individuals on the basis of their drug use. Some governments, particularly in Asia, continue to execute individuals despite a lack of evidence that this works as a deterrent. Others are mandatorily placed in detention centers in the name of treatment and rehabilitation and are often forced into hard labour. These activities violate the basic human rights of drug users, destroy families, and contribute to a climate of fear, risky behavior, and stigmatization that only increases the harms associated with drug use, such as HIV infection, while having no discernible impact on rates of drug use. More...
By Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
I support the Vienna Declaration because, in most countries, approaches to drug use focus overwhelmingly on criminalization and the imposition of harsh penalties rather than public health measures. As a result, people who use illegal drugs worldwide continue being denied harm reduction services, have poor and inequitable access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection, suffer abuse and sometimes torture at the hand of law enforcement officials, and are often incarcerated for lengthy periods of time simply for using or possessing drugs.
These human rights abuses are reported from all regions of the world. They are abhorrent in themselves and we must fight them for this reason alone. Furthermore, they increase people’s vulnerability to HIV and negatively affect the delivery of HIV programmes. Much more needs to happen to fight these abuses. More...
By Prof. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
As a scientist, I strongly support drug policies that are based on scientific evidence of what actually works and that respect universal human rights. That is why I joined my colleagues around the world to sign the Vienna Declaration.
As the Vienna Declaration notes, current illicit drug policy is a serious obstacle in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. In addition to failing to achieve its stated objectives, the conventional “war on drugs approach” stigmatizes and criminalizes people who use drugs, increasing their vulnerability to HIV. In cases where people who use drugs are already infected with HIV, these policies impede their ability to access life-saving treatments and interventions to prevent transmission.
On the contrary, there is an impressive body of literature documenting the economic, social, and public health values of lifesaving programmes such as methadone maintenance therapy, needle exchange, and other harm reduction initiatives. Despite the evidence of their positive impact on individuals and communities, these programmes still face huge and discouraging implementation gaps across the world.
Join me and my colleagues in signing the Vienna Declaration and reminding governments that every time they fail to act on evidence-based drug policy options, they cost us precious time in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Prof. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is the Director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Institut Pasteur and shares the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery of HIV.