International Remembrance Day, 21st July -For those who have died from the War on Drugs – which is a war on people!


This is a speech spoken at a Remembrance Day event in London yesterday. It gives a personal point of view looking at how the War on Drugs -which is a war on people in every part of the world that has been happening for almost 100 years! Here is just one persons story of being inside this insane maelstrom.

My Name is Anna

My name is Anna and I call myself a drug user activist.

I have been a drug injector for over 30 years and a drug user activist for more than half of that.

In that time – like many of us here today – I have seen a lot of things….

And, like many of us here – I have also had some extraordinary relationships, encounters and random chances with many, many people who used drugs.

People who, for the most part – were not dodgy or crazy – well maybe just a little –

Who were not dirty,  lying or cheating horrible people –

But mostly passionate, caring, sensitive and generous people. People who – yes they may have been pushed to the brink –marginalised and isolated by a society that had to criminalise before it cared – judged before it understood; people who should have received better protection from our drug policies – rather than annihilation…..

People who I have loved and cared about, like we all have –and this is why we are here on this very important day today.

As a drug user activist for many years now I have given speeches and presentations at lots of places all over the country –and while every presentation is different – but this one is special.

It is special because this is the one time I can honestly truly stand up and say – loud and proud – how grateful and how fortunate I am to have made friendships with some of the best people in the world – other drug users – fuck – other junkies! – wonderful, courageous people who have often battled huge odds to still be here – today – and many who are literally here today and in this audience.

People who have found each other, often initially through their enjoyment or pain, their that sharing of an illegal substance. You might say prohibition has brought many of us together.

But prohibition has also meant that –many of these very same people – these special, wild and crazy characters – are NOT here today.

Because they are DEAD. Those people –and we all knew someone – who died directly because our insane drug policies continue to make the same mistakes over and over again – day in and day out –while people like I have just mentioned – die!

Think about this: every minute of every day –someones brother or sister is crying out for methadone but cant get it because (like in Russia) they have an idea that it should be kept illegal to stop drug users indulging themselves.

That someones father is being bundled up in a rug in Guatemala and kidnapped by a quazy religious cult who have financially fleeced the relatives by selling a story that incarceration in a blacked out house – against a persons will is the only way to save someone from drugs.

And that – in the filipines a childs mother and father have been shot dead in the street by a vigilante public who cheer the bandits on and tie big signs round their dead necks calling them pushers.

While here in London someones best buddy overdoses alone in a half way hostel because they are using benzos on top of the shitty blackmarket heroin that available in an effort to drown out the misery of life criminalized after yet another prison sentence.

Prohibition is killing our community – over and over, to quickly to count the numbers –only through days like this do we have an opportunity to really reflect on who these policies are really affecting –in real time.

The anger is real – no doubt about that – it is why I became a drug user activist. But I just want to quickly tell you –being an angry activist didn’t happen overnight. It was an accumulation of several lightbulb moments that happened to me – that made me realise – OMG – I do not deserve shit treatment from people and services just because I use drugs and supposedly broke a few rules.

I used to think – well, what could I expect if I did the wrong thing. Jeezus, surely I couldn’t expect to be treated well? I was in the wrong, after all. I didn’t see then that societys label of junkie –and all its connotations – ran so deeply in people – that I was being judged and sentenced by their ignorance.

Ignorance that could literally put my life at risk.

Ill just tell you very quickly about 2 of those litebulb moments:

The first one happened after I had just been diagnosed HIV positive –it was in 1995 and things were different back then –but stigma is stigma and it is still rife today as we know –no matter what its shade or location.

So, 1995, and it was 6 weeks after I had been diagnosed –my first dr appoint. And I went with to this dr appoint –in fact I went with my mum –and I was met by a female dr who proceeded to  hammer me, in the most humiliating way, with a series of 100 questions about my drug use, whether I was sharing needles, did I have anal sex –all delivered with the most accusatory tone I was stunned into virtual silence! My mum –after she picked herself and me – metaphorically -off the floor –said ‘excuse me – I don’t appreciate you speaking to my daughter in that way’; and later, after we left and went for coffee, I realized –what she in fact was brimming with –was a judgement: I was guilty, I was a junky, I had brought this on myself. I was the non deserving.

And I realized in a flash: OMG – I had gone to this dr as an open book – as vulnerable as one can be – we both were – I felt like my life was in her hands –and that she didn’t want it. I wasn’t like everyone else – I really was ‘the other’ and this could literally affect my life now.

It was a lightbulb moment.

Later when a friend and I were bemoaning the fact that there were no drug users speaking on world aids day, considering how we had seen its impact on the injecting community; my friend Andrea, had just been telling me about her husband who had just died of aids. How incredibly courageous he was (in fact John mordant was one of several drug user activists in the world who formed the first front line of user activism back in early 1990s.- also started Mainliners) And that it really felt like there was nowhere for people like him to be welcomed, understood, appreciated –like there was for gay men at the time.

She said to me pointedly “ Because we have heroes too”.

And tears started to well up in my eyes because all of a sudden I thought about all the wonderful people I knew, some of whom were now dead –who never got the appreciation, the respect, the support even the funeral they should have got – just because they used an illegal substance.

But as I said – drug user activism helps me to channel my anger, and has helped me to fight back in constructive ways rather than remaining in a self destructive spiral of guilt, confusion, thwarted ambition, rage.

And days like today are an inspiration – to see all the wonderful people I deeply respect here today –and to celebrate the lives of those who –tragically – and for which there really are no words – are not here today –

Thank you all for coming today to remember those who lived life on the edge –in ways we all sometimes dream about doing but don’t dare –

We will keep remembering them all.

Dedicated to Raffi Ballian – a Canadian masterclass of an activist who died of an overdose this year.

Life Goes on In Crimea, (unless your on methadone…)

Life Goes On in Russia’s Crimea

Here are the final 2 blogs in the series of 4, from Igor Kuzmenko’s personal blogs of Crimea, in particular, life for those who once lived under Ukraine law and received Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) such as methadone only to lose their new found stability after the region’s Referendum when the majority voted to go back to Russian governance. This effectively closed the doors for good on OST leaving over 800 people in shock and despair. So what is a person withdrawing from treatment supposed to do? What would you do if your access to methadone or buprenorphine was cut off almost overnight…? Igor gives us a frighteningly honest account of what happened to the OST community in Crimea..Here is part 3 and part 4.

NOTE: Part one and two are a bit further down this blog and the whole series has been reprinted here courtesy of INPUD’s blog and you can also read them in Russian at ENPUD’s website /blog. Thanks to Igor for a fascinating insight into Crimea for the drug using community, and INPUD for reprinting.

 

RIP Crimean OST Program, 2006

small_igor (1)

Igor Kuzmenko

Part 3

Meanwhile life in the Crimea went on. As spring approached, people continued to go to work, and students proceeded to attend their studies. Very few inhabitants of the Crimea understood that 806 people of the region’s  population, were literally on the way out.

 

Death From Abstinence

As I  wrote previously, the first patient in Simferopol died around the beginning of April. He was about 50, was seriously ill and couldn’t move at all. Everything was good with him before the March events; the doctor wrote a prescription for him so he could get liquid methadone and he continued to use Opiate Substitution Therapy without leaving the apartment. But after March 16, everything changed and the prescription form of OST was suspended in Crimea. It goes without saying that any coroner wouldn’t determine a cause of death as ‘death from abstinency’. But something tells me that if he continued to have the opportunity to receive methadone, he would be still alive.

 

 But after March 16, everything changed and the prescription form of OST was suspended in Crimea.

 

Bupe Not Methadone

Actually,  there were not so many people receiving OST on a prescription basis in the Crimea. And there were a few reasons for that. First,  the prescription form is possible only for those people who receive buprenorphine in Ukraine. There are cities where all clients of the buprenorphine program constantly receive it using a prescription. But everything is much more difficult when dealing with methadone.

ukrainianmethadone

The medicine used in a Ukrainian methadone OST program – known as ‘Metadict’ and ‘Metadole’ – are both made in Germany or Canada. Both of them are in the form of tablets, not syrup. They come in blister packs of 10 tablets: 25 mg each, (total 250mg)  or in bottles of 500 mg. But it is impossible to get it using a prescription because according to the laws of Ukraine a single prescription dose of any narcotic substance mustn’t exceed 112 mg. The blister packs are not allowed to be cut up or tablets prescribed separately from the packaging. There were individual cases when patients could receive a liquid methadone on prescription, but only on a commercial basis and it is very expensive.

 

Methadone Not Bupe

In the Crimea, it is different. Slightly more than 50 people out of 806 patients received buprenorphine, the others got methadone. About 10 people out of those 50 had the opportunity to receive buprenorphine on prescription though not on a constant basis. They got it occasionally – because of a business trip, illness or going on a holiday.

ukrainian-methadone-metadol

Ukrainian methadone; Metadol

 

There is also one more reason for prescriptions being shut down in the Crimea after “the referendum”. Doctors were afraid to write out prescriptions on both of these substances because they are actually illegal in Russia and so employees of drugstores in turn, were afraid to sell the medications and fill  these prescriptions.

 

May 20th – D Day

May 20 was the last day when people could use the OST program in the Crimea, so after that each of the 806 person’s who were prescribed had to make one’s own choices of what to do. There were only four options:

  1. String oneself up to stop using drugs forever
  2. Go to Russian local rehabilitation centers praised by numerous Russian “guests”;
  3. Continue using OST by moving to Ukraine;
  4. Go back to using “street” drugs.

According to my knowledge, no more than 20-30 people went to Russia for rehab. Many of them couldn’t undergo an entire “rehabilitation course” till the end and ran away. However, some stayed in rehab for the whole term. One OST client from Simferopol died in St. Petersburg during the rehabilitation process. He died of an overdose.

Slightly less than 60 people risked going to Ukraine. This option was, undoubtedly, the most realistic of all. For example, in many cases it was necessary to buy tickets at ones’ own expense to go to Russia, but in Ukraine both tickets, accommodation and food were paid for you.

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Nevertheless, as you can see by the number of people who went to Ukraine, it didn’t become a mass phenomenon. Partly, this was due to mass media propaganda which colourfully described the various ‘atrocities’ of Ukrainians in relation to the inhabitants of the Crimea who risked leaving and facing the ‘mockeries’ of the Ukrainian border guards who were taking away passports on the border and other nonsense. The other reason that many of inhabitants of the Crimea never left for Ukraine, was they had neither friends, nor relatives there and simply couldn’t imagine where they were supposed to go.

Now many of the clients of OST who had gone to Ukraine, already found a job there, and all without exception found rented accommodation and received some financial support from the project MBF “Renaissance”.

 

“It turns out that more than 600 people started taking street drugs again.”

 

From those people with whom I was in contact no more than 10 people could finally stop taking drugs of any kind.    If you make simple arithmetic operation, it turns out the following:

806 (total number of clients in the Crimea OST program) minus 20 (number of those who undergone “rehabilitation” in Russia), minus 60 (left to Ukraine), minus 50 (suppose not 10, but 50 people stopped taking drugs) = 676.

About 30 already died out of that number of people. It turns out that more than 600 people started taking street drugs again. And many of them during many years of using the OST program found work, started a family and gave birth to children.  Now it’s all over.

 Igor Kuzmenko

Below is the final part of Igor Kuzmenko’s series on Crimea. Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments and let us know if you have a story to tell from your country.

 RIP Crimean OST Program, 2006

 

Igor Kuzmenko

Igor Kuzmenko

Part 4

How to reach those people who made decisions on the issues of Opiate Substitution Therapy (OST)  in the Crimea? Which words should be found to explain to them that situation where 800 drug users under constant medical and psychological control, employed and reintegrated, is much better than 800 people coming back to being criminalised in the drug trade? How could one explain what the blue sky is to the person born blind? How it is possible to explain to a mother, whose son quietly had been using OST for several years, stopped breaking the law, started a family and found a job, why he has died of an overdose during the rehabilitation? Who benefits from it?

“What we had been created for several years was destroyed in two and a half months.”

Probably, for those people who have nothing to do with OST and don’t have the slightest idea of what this therapy actually is, it is only a “change of the dealer” – earlier I bought drugs on the street and now I get them free of charge from the doctor. But actually OST is a difficult system in which the process of taking methadone or buprenorphine is only a small part of the whole process. OST is a complex of actions that allow the person to live a more or less productive life. Many elements of this scheme, such as the ART (Anti Retroviral Therapy*), anti-tubercular therapy, are strongly connected with OST. There is no point in pretending otherwise, many people started to use ART and to look after their health only after they visited the OST site.

 

Irina, a client from the OST program

Irina, a client from the OST program

Stability and the Street

What we had been created for several years was destroyed in two and a half months.

So, more than 600 former people from the OST programs have taken part in the illicit drug scene again since May. What do our people use to medicate themselves with now?

Lyrica. This beautiful and romantic word is actually the name for one of the biggest problems of the Crimean drug scene nowadays. Lyrica (active agent – Pregabalin). An antiepileptic and anticonvulsive medical product made by Pfizer Company. Many ex-OST patients are suffering from its over-use today. It has excellent medical qualities if you take it on prescription, but it causes terrible side effects and dependence for those people who try to combat withdrawal syndrome with its help. It is sold freely in any drugstore in the Crimea and costs not so much.

Only a total deficiency of any medical products in local drugstores is saving others from the serious consequences of pharmaceutical drug dependence in the Crimea.

“Now I hear from people who were full of vim and vigor, who had plans for the future just two months ago, that they want to die.”

Checks. “Checks” is how people name portions of raw opium from which it is possible to extract heroin, if you add acetic anhydride to it.

“Checks” existed in the Crimea as far back as I can remember. It is a good reliable way to quickly recover from withdrawal syndrome. You could get “checks” quite easily at any time. But after the OST programs were closed, hundreds of drug users suddenly entered the market (more than 200 people just in Simferopol! ) and devastated all the opium reserves in the Crimea. Moreover, new anti-narcotic structures represented by the Russian police (all police officers came to the Crimea from the Russian cities – Perm, Kazan, Moscow, there are not any local representatives in police) and by Federal Service on Control of the Drug trafficking (FDCS) – the nightmare of the Russian drug users. The increase in number of “checks” users led to a decrease in its supply and importing from Ukraine became a big problem.

By hearsay, so as not to suddenly miss an opportunity to increase profits, dealers began to add foreign substances to their product, it could be harmless substances or hard shit like home-made methadone. New police forces and new circumstances around buying drugs has led to the situation where purchasing “checks” poses a big problem now.

Heroin. I often hear from people in the Crimea that there is lot of cheap heroin here now. But I couldn’t find even one person who saw or tried that heroin. So I can draw a conclusion that there is not and there was not any heroin in the Crimea.

Krokodil. I assure you that if it wasn’t for a deficiency of medical products in drugstores, including codeine-containing ones, “krokodil” would now be problem No. 1 in the Crimea. But every cloud has a silver lining.  People just can’t find the substance that you should use to make this poison, and that’s why krokodil isn’t present in the Crimean drug scene.

“Well, this is how it goes.”

Well, this is how it goes.

Now I hear from people who were full of vim and vigor, who had plans for the future just two months ago that they want to die. Former patients aren’t able to go to work because they suffer from never-ending withdrawal syndrome. Their families suffer as much as they do.

I am an optimist.  My glass is always half full. But I can’t see anything optimistic in the future of those from the last OST programme in Crimea.

Well, who knows, maybe I’m mistaken.

Written by Igor Kuzmenko

*ART: Anti Retroviral Therapy is a medical treatment for HIV/AIDS

 

All 4 parts in the Crimean OST series has been written by Igor Kuzmenko and here’s a massive public thank you to him for his really honest and personal insights into what it has been like for our peers in the region, and answering many of our questions too, I’m sure. The blogs were translated from Russian into English by the very professional Daria Mighty, and we are indebted to her speed and accuracy, thank you Daria! (The Russian version is available atENPUD)
If you want to find out more about the drug using community and its issues in the region of Eurasia, or you are living in that part of the world, check out INPUD’s sister organisation on their website ENPUD (The Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs). You can become a member, read other blogs from Igor and others and find out the news and views on drug issues and politics.

Another place that thinks its fine to kidnap users…

Just thought I would put in a story i saw on the BBC website today. It has left me cold and angry. I get so sick and tired of people who just think it is ok to come and take someone away, lock them up, beat them if necessary, maybe if your lucky your parents know where you are but you don’t get out until they let you…Guatemala, ok so it is having problems with a crack surge, but for Goddsake, this is a money making scam and a human rights violation. Why do we think its ok to just take a person who uses drugs, and think that there life is so worthless, that no one really cares enough to save them, that they actually need to be kidnapped, locked up and never let out. That it is ok to ‘treat’ them psychologically with any sort of unproven bullshit  for hours and days or months at a time. That they need to be made into slaves to work scrubbing floors or cleaning toilets…It is a disgrace and a scam and we need to keep the UN, who it says, said in 2012 that these places must be shut down (enforced treatment centres)…is there something the using community can do to speed this up? 

The rehab centres that lock up addicts against their will

A man behind bars

In Guatemala, behind barred and locked doors, thousands of drug addicts are offered treatment by Protestant churches. Christianity offers salvation for some but many are held against their will, and some are swept off the street by “hunting” parties.

“They grabbed me. They found me completely out of it on the streets, and they just grabbed me.”

Marcos is a big guy. With closely cropped hair, and a huge expanse of chest, he is not the kind of man to tackle lightly. But Marcos was accosted by a group of men in Guatemala City and forcibly taken to a private, Christian rehabilitation centre.

“I was there for about a month and a half, and nobody knew anything about me. People thought I was killed or something, because that’s what happens in Guatemala.”

“I saw terrible things in that rehab – the owner used to beat up the girls. He would tie up the guys and roll them up like a taco in a piece of carpet, and leave them there for hours,” he says.

Listen to Linda Pressly’s report from Guatemala City on Crossing Continents on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday at 11:00 BST – or find it soon after on BBC iPlayer

Marcos was freed when a friend came looking for him, and demanded his release. He doesn’t think enforced rehab is the right approach and says it did nothing to help him quit his alcohol and drug habit.

“People came out madder and more furious. Instead of being rehabilitated, you just went out to get high again.”

Marcos grew up in the United States – a refugee from Guatemala’s civil war in the 1980s – but was deported back to his parents’ homeland after serving a prison sentence. With family in California, the owner of the rehab centre saw Marcos as a money-making proposition – he tried, and failed, to get contact details for Marcos’ family to ask them for money for Marcos’ keep.

All that is behind him now – Marcos is clean, and is dedicated to mentoring young people.

As there is no residential, state provision for addicts in Guatemala, private rehabilitation facilities have filled the vacuum. There may be as many as 200 Christian centres in Guatemala, possibly holding 6,000 people, estimates Dr Kevin O’Neill, from the University of Toronto, who has made an anthropological study of the centres. It is not known how many of them practice the aggressive “hunting” Marcos experienced.

A rehab centre with metal bars on the outsideOne of the private rehabilitation centres that have sprung up in Guatemala City

O’Neill believes Guatemala is confronting a surge of addiction. Its strategic location in Central America means the majority of illicit narcotics moving from South America to the United States make landfall here. And the fallout is a growing local market for highly addictive drugs like crack cocaine.

“It’s increased the number of centres in the capital city. But it’s also changed the culture inside the centres – the internal dynamics have become much more aggressive, and much more discipline-driven because of the rise of crack cocaine,” he says.

The founder and director of the Rescatados del Abismo, Rescued from the Abyss, centre is Pablo Marroquin, a born-again Christian and former drug addict.

Pablo Marroquin at his rehab centre

“I’d been in other rehabilitation centres, but I wanted to make mine more personal. I put it in the hands of God – he’s the only one who can rescue us from drug addiction,” he says.

Marroquin lives on the ground floor of an unremarkable building in Guatemala City with his family, his budgerigars, and a pack of small, snappy dogs.

On the first floor, behind a locked, barred door, 54 addicts mill around. Many of them will not be allowed to leave for at least three months – but it could be years. Only the addicts’ families or the director himself sanction the release of those interned here.

It is a confined space for so many people – the size of a large, three-bedroom flat. Off a common area, there is a bathroom, a room stacked with roughly-constructed bunks for those with privileges -most inmates sleep on the floor – and a bedroom for the six women internees.

A man sits on the floor against the wall, eating out of a bowl

Currently, the smooth running of the centre is down to Carlos – an internee who has been into rehab more than 30 times to try to overcome his addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol. Carlos imposes discipline and punishment at Rescatados del Abismo.

“When people arrive they can be very violent, and the only way to respond to that is with violence. It makes me uncomfortable, but it’s extremely important to maintain discipline here,” he says.

CarlosCarlos, an internee himself, maintains order at Rescatados del Abismo

Forcing an internee to clean the floors or to work at night are other forms of punishment.

Internees are partly controlled by compulsory attendance at meetings. They spend seven hours a day telling and re-telling each other their stories, charting their descent into addiction. These meetings are the only “therapy”.

They are not structured, there is no psychologist or doctor involved, and no one is allowed to leave the room without permission. While listening to the testimony, the residents sit in shadow – the barred windows of the meeting room are covered with thick yellow corrugated plastic.

Freddie speaking to other internees

It is impossible to see the street from anywhere inside the centre.

“The vast majority, I would say 95% of the internees are here against their will,” says Carlos.

“Now he’s there, we have a bit more peace of mind – if he were in the street, anything could happen here in Guatemala”

Carlos Ruiz

Carlos Ruiz, brother of Victor, an internee

When desperate families call the centre asking for help with a substance-abusing loved one, he often accompanies the director to go and pick an addict up.

“It’s our role to bring them here, and that can mean using handcuffs like the police. Sometimes a family will say their son is very violent and has a knife or machete. In those cases we tie him up before bringing him here.”

Carlos believes this is legal in Guatemala. A ministerial accord of 2006 states that an addict can be interned when they are not in a fit state, but once they have recovered sufficiently, they must give consent. By all accounts, this rarely happens.

At the Ministry of Health, the regulation and co-ordination of the centres comes in the shape of just one man – Hector Hernandez has worked for the last 14 years to try to improve the centres and make them more humane. He has closed some, but he says forced detention has never been proven.

“Not even the attorney for the defence of human rights has been able to establish there are people detained against their will – there’s been no confirmation of any allegations made,” he says.

During the compulsory meetings at Rescatados del Abismo, Victor Ruiz reads his well-thumbed bible. An abuser of crack cocaine and alcohol, he has been here for three months. Victor believes only God and Jesus Christ will rescue him from addiction.

Victor Ruiz reading his bible

“I think I’ll be here for another five months, it all depends what my brothers decide,” he says.

Before he came to the centre, Victor was living on the streets. One day when the family could not find him anywhere, his older brother, Carlos Ruiz went to look for Victor at the morgue.

“I was looking at the photos of dead people to see if one of them was him. It’s really shocking. These things stay with you, it’s like you die a bit too,” he says.

After Victor was attacked in the street by someone with a machete, the family had him interned in Rescatados del Abismo.

“Now he’s there, we have a bit more peace of mind – if he were in the street, anything could happen here in Guatemala.”

The director of Rescatados del Abismo, Pablo Marroquin, has little patience with arguments about whether the regime he runs violates the rights of internees, especially when they are held involuntarily.

“What about families? What we do is give families peace, so their loved one doesn’t get himself into trouble. And so that he won’t kill them,” he counters.

Adverts for other rehab centresAdverts for other rehabilitation centres in Guatemala City, with the left one titled “Warriors of Christ”

There is no data about how successful the rehabilitation of addicts is in Guatemala. In 2012, the United Nations called on all member states to close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres.

“There is no evidence that these centres represent a favourable or effective environment for the treatment of drug dependence,” declared the UN statement.

Many experts believe addicts can never be forced to change – they have to want to stop. And in Guatemala there are many Christian establishments that will only take addicts on a voluntary basis.

But Pablo Marroquin, clean now for 22 years, is a testament to his own approach to rehabilitation.

“I experienced God’s mercy – he rescued me. He brought me to a rehabilitation centre where I met myself, and I met God. And these days, I’m a happy man.”

Listen to Linda Pressly’s report from Guatemala City on Crossing Continents on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday at 11:00 BST – or find it soon

HIV/AIDS in 1985; No Really, We Will Never Forget…

It was 1988, in Wick, a small highland town in the far north of Scotland. My wife’s ex boyfriend had been diagnosed as being HIV positive. We knew we had to get tested. My wife was from the infamous period in Edinburgh period of shooting gallery’s where it was so hard to find works (syringes) that people would stand in a line and the dealer would cook up the hits using te same syringe on everyone.

There was a prototype of a needle exchange that had been running from an area called the Grassmarket in Edinburgh but the police were routinely arresting people who visited it. The police eventually closed it down in the early 1980’s. The cops were very hard on junkies who were injectors.

It was a strange time where you could be busted for having traces of gear or even a needle packet on your person. But the drug that was the real gold dust for the using community was Diconol which were bright pink tablets (I think that were made by Roche -dipionone hydrochloride).

Opus Morphia from David Graham Scott on Vimeo.

This film was made by David around the time (1985). Incredibly, he did not go to film school.

It was a really strong opiate analgesic, a mixture of Cyclomorph and a sort of anti-emetic) and the rush was the reason people bought it. It was like a religious experience, you generally felt you were in the company of God for a few moments,  it was a truly beautiful sensation, the best I have ever had in my life.

So anyway, my girlfriend and I went to get tested. I wasn’t really bothered about it, I never even thought I’d be positive, and neither did my girlfriend.

Three weeks later the results were in and it was my girl that got the bad news. She was positive and  I wasn’t. I said I would stick behind her no matter what happened; and typical of her (remains anonymous), she took it all in her stride. God only knows how, as things would get a lot, lot worse.

I would go with her to the HIV clinic and all the positive people had to sit along a wall. There was those old-fashioned weighing scales measuring height and weight, and without any privacy whatsoever, they would announce your weight, like at school, and because everyone always went there  coz they had to for their methadone (there was almost nothing on offer then), it was like some cattle market.

Gallows humour would run loose among the patients, as is the Scottish way, topped off with small junkie self platitudes such as ‘thank fuck I ain’t as bad as him’ .  Comments bounced around the echoing hospital hallways like” Oh, he is going down….61Kilograms today laddy, that’s quite a drop to tell ya ma” or “Oh,lookee there, she has that whatsimacallit, the scabby things, she must be getting AIDS nurse, right or no? “, and on and on it went. People just wasted away in front of you, on parade for all of us to see.

 

Episode 2 will tell you more from David of the shameful story of Edinburgh and HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s and should be about a week behind this.  

HOWEVER!!!

You can see more about David Graham Scott’s exemplary career in filmmaking, covering various issues but covering brilliantly his experiences as a junkie, or indeed battling ‘junkdom’.

In particular the famous ‘Detox or Die (his personal experience of undergoing an Ibogaine detox on film a decade ago (available to view today free online and on DGS’s Vimeo channel to this blog on INPUD’s webpage. This just released film (which you can read about on the link provided) called Iboga Nights. It is the culmination of three long years of in-depth research into the drug Iboga and the lives and detoxes of the accompanying clutch of courageous, wonderful characters involved in the film, the much called for sequel Iboga Nights (google it but we will review it shortly) was a big success on the documentary film circuit recently winning much deserved awards and acclaim.  BP will cover this next in more detail. If this has whetted your appetite, look for David Graham Scott on Facebook and speak to him directly! Or you will find much covering both films and more by googling it.

 

Feeling a bit defeated?? Find yourself slowly crushed by the weight of a loved one’s ignorant viewpoints on your drug use?

Well Ditch it Brothers and Sisters!

Redaktionens bild

The world-class Swedish Drug Users Union

Last year, just like every year on the 1st of November, that very special day in the drug users own calendar comes alive! Only last year, guess who should write one of the most moving, powerful and courageous testimonies of our times – but the Swedish Drug Users Union!

This readers, is no great shock as this world-class union consisting of 13 separate chapters including Stockholm, Malmo etc is consistently putting out some of the most innovative and high quality peer resources available, certainly within Europe, and is a 1st class example of just what your user group can do both inside and outside government. Remember, Sweden may appear liberal but it is in fact very conservative towards drug users and just demanding a globally approved and evidenced based needle exchange for the inner city, has taken years and years of struggle by the union (so they have opened it themselves sans local permission in order to save lives. Now that’s action!).

Along with the impressive journey travelled over (at least) the last decade pushed onwards by some of their leading Union members (a big shout out to the brilliant founder Berne and his team at the lead union of Sweden, and Kikki and her close team running the highly visible and hardworking Stockholm branch.

But getting to the fabulous point – I discovered on the Swedish Users Union Website, a statement to really mark and celebrate OUR DAY – the 1st of November every year;

It is, dear readers, a day to proclaim and reclaim the precious rights to our own bodies and what goes in them, our independence regarding our alternative lifestyle choices, to relish and delight in our chemical search for enlightenment; and to have fun, be loud and proud and educate the consistently new ignorant people who read the tabloids and watch the chat shows to understand their news..

Reader’z, I implore you to read out and even copy a version of this truly excellent statement of our rights and our scapegoated position in English, be polite and ask SDDU if you wish to reprint any of it (credited of course) on your groups website and goddammit, pin it up in your local methadone clinic, prison or rehab on 1st November!

 

Big thank you to Theo Van Dam and the Netherland’s LSD for starting our special global day.

INPUD Statement for International Drug Users’

Day, 1st November 2013

AvRedaktionen (SBFRiks) den 02 nov 2013 23:43 | 0kommentarer

The international drug users’ movement welcomes the introduction over recent years of a human rights discourse into discussions about drug law reform, harm reduction and public health, and the clear delineation of the systemic relations between global punitive prohibition and the grotesque violations of the rights of people who use drugs.

However, on this, International Drug Users’ Day, the International Network of People who Use Drugs wants to push this discourse one step further and affirm the positive right of people to use the drugs of their choice without the undue interference of police, judicial, and medical authorities. This right is implied most clearly by those to privacy, bodily integrity, and the right not to be discriminated against.

For too long, human rights discourse has largely ignored this thorny issue, and has focused to great effect on the egregious human rights violations rained down upon people simply on the basis that they choose to use drugs whose usage is deemed unacceptable subsequent to the passage of the three global conventions that together comprise global prohibition.

The range of such abuses is vast, systemic and grotesque, and includes abrogations of the right to vote, of the right to liberty, to privacy, to physical and mental integrity, to freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment, to freedom from involuntary medical procedures, to be free from discrimination, and to the highest attainable standard of health. Repressive drug laws also jeopardise the right to safety by denying people access to drugs of known quality, quantity, and purity, thus exposing us to the risk of overdose, poisoning and infection, as well as to sterile means of administering injectable drugs.

These systemic rights abuses driven by a globally repressive legal environment of varying degrees of viciousness has included torture, forced treatment, police shakedowns and violence, arbitrary mass incarceration and detention, the denial of access to medical services (most notably denial of the right to access treatment for HCV and HIV), and the denial of access to harm reduction services. Harsh drug laws jeopardise the right to family life by denying drug using parents access to their children, and in some countries people, especially women, known to be users of illegal drugs have been forcefully sterilised. These violations driven by a combination of puritanical moralism, racism, sexism, and the biopolitical imperative of governments to exert control over, and discipline, the bodies of their citizens, has created a world in which people who use, and in particular who inject, drugs are massively, disproportionately affected by blood borne viruses, most notably HIV and HCV. These violations are not glitches in the system of drug control, nor the actions of a few ‘rogue’ enforcement agents, rather they are constitutive of, and directly entailed by, prohibition.

People who use currently illegal drugs have been labelled immoral, criminal, and sick, often a combination of all three at the same time. We have been moralised over, criminalised and pathologised. On this International Drug Users’ Day, we say enough. On this International Drug Users’ Day we assert the right to bodily integrity, and to privacy, we reclaim control over our bodies and minds and assert the right of consenting adults to use whatever drugs they choose, whether it be for pleasure, to self-medicate, to enhance performance, to alter consciousness  or to provide some succour and relief from hard lives, we insist that as adults that right is ours. We defend the right of adults to use their drugs of choice in their homes without causing harm or nuisance to others, and to carry them in public without fear of police harassment, abuse and intimidation.

The use of consciousness altering drugs is an integral part of the human experience, common to all cultures throughout history, as such drug use is neither bad, mad, nor sick, it should not, and need not, be a crime. The use of currently illegal drugs is not a sign of moral depravity, a character fault, a marker of criminal tendencies, or of pathology, it is no more and no less than one aspect of what it is to be human, a part of the diversity of human experience. Doug Husak, one of the few academics to have seriously looked at this issue concludes in his book Drugs and Rights that ” the arguments in favour of believing that adults have a moral right to use drugs recreationally are more persuasive than the arguments on the other side” he continues that those of us who reject the war on drugs, which is in reality a war on people who use drugs, “should be described as endorsing a pro-choice position on recreational drug use”.

To assert and defend this implied right to use drugs INPUD will be launching a ‘Charter of the Rights of People who Use Drugs’ laying out the basic rights to which we, like all other members of the human family are entitled. This charter will be prefaced by a detailed exposition of the multiple areas of life in which the rights of people who use drugs are violated, simply on the basis of what drugs we choose to use.

Drug use = my choice!

Abstinence = your choice.

Prohibition = no choice!

– – – – –

More information: Protecting rights to ensure health: International Drug Users Day 2013.

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Text uppdaterad: 2013-11-03 21:58
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17th of December is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

The Red Umbrella is the global sign for sex worker solidarity and rights

The Red Umbrella is the global sign for sex worker solidarity and rights and the NSWP (Network Sex Worker Projects)

Global Network of Sex Work Projects

launches a global consensus

against violence

NSWP (known as Global Network of Sex Worker Projects) is publishing the results of a global consultation exercise, carried out with members in every region, and now written up into all the five languages of NSWP, for December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

The publication of the Consensus Statement represents a new tool for sex workers’ advocacy worldwide, as for the first time it distills into a consensus the global demands of the sex worker rights movement. The Consensus Statement details eight fundamental rights that sex worker-led groups from around the world identified as crucial targets for their activism and advocacy, and which, if fully realised, would be a huge step towards safeguarding sex workers’ human rights, labour rights, and health. These eight key rights were identified as:

  • The right to associate and organise;
  • The right to be protected by the law;
  • The right to be free from violence;
  • The right to be free from discrimination;
  • The right to privacy, and freedom from arbitrary interference;
  • The right to health;
  • The right to move and migrate; and
  • The right to work and free choice of employment

The documents – which have been published in both full and summary versions – are available in English (full and summary); French (full and summary); Russian (full and summary); Chinese (fulland summary) and Spanish (full and summary).

 

Here we go again; sweeping up the junkie mess in time for the glowingly healthy & happy Olympics; Brazilian Stylee

Hey readers, just check out this news article from Brazil. Enforced treatment not only goes against every tenet of the therapeutic relationship which has at its crux that one can’t force change on anyone who isn’t a willing, consenting partner -let alone the ethical issues at the heart of this. Enforced treatment rears its ugly head over and over again, emerging often in all manner of forms from the mildly menacing “‘we’re not forcing you exactly but if you don’t do xyz you won’t get help/housing/support/treatment etc” to the outright being kidnapped in the middle of the night and locked up in a ‘treatment facility’ with no recourse or redress. Yes, this all happens -but it is yet another story. This one is about Rio in Brazil, which has followed a programme first implemented in Brazil in Sao Paulo -and although there is clearly no evidence base for this kind of incarceration as a ‘treatment’, Rio nevertheless rolls out the rehab carpet. Go directly to rehab. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Being brought by ones parent’s or family members, which is often offered up to us as reasonable force or ‘encouragement’ can also be highly dubious, more realistically occurring as a punishment for the wayward child, who attends as a display of remorse or guilt to the family rather than a real desire or ability to get off drugs at what is often a crisis in that persons life that precipitates the heated fights and tears of the ‘pre rehab familial tsunami’. Breaking point for one side or the other ensues and rehab is raised, the bags packed. Of course as the article states, there is NO evidence for this kind of treatment approach, which isn’t to say it is all about baby steps and lots of cuddles (although that would be more effective than the former, I’m sure).  It is a convoluted mixture of approaches, which need to be guided by the individual who needs to believe in their own power to create the changes that lead to a better life; but to have some options of a better life being a possibility. And some support if needed to get there. After all, as one junkie I know said, “When you’re on the bottom rung of the ladder, everything is above you”. Firstly though – we have to stop treating drug users like they can be just swept away when the Olympics or some such event passes by our cities. Treated like they are the dirt on the new shoes of the up and coming new city suburbs. To believe in themselves, we have to believe in them. They are, after all -our sons, our daughters, mums, dads, grandpas and grandmas, our cousins and our husbands and wives. A selfish society or an impatient one, is destined to fall on its face in the muddy streets of its crime filled cities. No help to anybody. Yes it gets messy, yes there are countries, cities and towns where the picture is more harrowing than one could ever imagine. But our old approaches just arent working anymore. How many times must we throw money and our heads against brick walls? Involve people who use drugs to find out new answers, ask them their thoughts and opinions, provide the mechanisms to get their voices heard and their ideas developed. Engage the community you are targeting, it works – don’t just lock them up out of sight.

Issue CCXII – Weekly Edition: April 3 – April 9, 2013

Forced Treatment for Brazil Crack Addicts

February 26, 2013 | Filed underFront Page,Politics | Posted by 

By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter

BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – In an attempt to tackle Brazil’s growing crack epidemic, the city of Rio de Janeiro has begun a program of involuntary hospitalization for users, one month after Brazil’s biggest city São Paulo began a similar program. At least 99 addicts have been hospitalized, 29 involuntarily, since the program launched one week ago, according to local media tallies.

Officials say that most of those hospitalized for crack addiction in São Paulo since involuntary treatment was introduced have come voluntarily, or been brought by family members, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

With its long, porous border adjoining the world’s top three drug producers – Bolivia, Peru and Colombia – Brazil has historically been a transit country for drug trafficking to the U.S. and Europe.

Yet increasingly, Brazil has become a drug destination, with a Federal University of São Paulo study released last year showing that Brazil is now possibly the world’s largest market for crack-cocaine, with as many as one million users.

Some feel it it the approaching 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics that has prompted officials to ramp up efforts to present a clean, safe, tourist-friendly image.

Critics say that forcing addicts into rehabilitation treatment is ineffective, as the vast majority of users will quickly start using drugs again once discharged.

“When an addict is interned unwillingly, he can remain abstinent as long as he remains hospitalized,” Psychiatrist Dartiu Xavier da Silveira, who coordinates the renowned Guidance and Treatment of Addiction program of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp), told The Rio Times.

“When he returns to his normal life (and his usual problems), the vast majority of users go back to using the drug as before,” Professor Silveira added. “Proposals for compulsory hospitalization as a measure of public health has no support in scientific evidence.”

Ronaldo Laranjeira, who heads up Unifesp’s Research Unit on Alcohol and Drugs and is a leading authority on the subject, said that the nature of crack addiction is so extreme that ordinary addiction treatment is inappropriate, and patients should be treated as psychiatric patients.

Critics of involuntary hospitalization say that without adequate treatment following detox, most addicts will begin using again, photo by Tânia Rêgo/ABr.

“In terms of crack users, the cases are so severe, people are so aggressive, so impulsive, sometimes psychotic, for me they are [not just addicts but] severe cases of psychiatric diseases,” he told The Rio Times. “That’s why for many people we have to use involuntary admission.”

“The clinical structure we have is basically only outpatients’ clinics and they cannot cope with these more severe cases,” he added. Long-term, Professor Laranjeira says that more specialized clinics for chemical dependency are required.

Professor Silveira agrees that involuntary hospitalization is appropriate for some patients who present psychiatric problems, but says these patients make up less than fifteen percent of crack addicts.

Brazil is by no means the first country to try coercive treatment for drug addiction. It is particularly common in Asia, and in the United States, some studies have shown that as much as fifty percent of publicly funded drug treatment referrals come from the criminal justice system. Coercive treatment for psychiatric treatment is common in much of Europe and the U.S.

In Dec 2011, the federal government launched a R$4 billion program to tackle the spread of crack-cocaine, focusing on prevention, care and policing. Health Minister Alexandre Padilha called the problem an “epidemic” and said drug addiction in Brazil had increased ten-fold between 2003 and 2011.

However, Professor Laranjeira said that very little of that money has actually reached state governments, and that this could adversely affect Rio’s ability to cope with demand for beds. “São Paulo has nearly a thousand beds for chemical dependency treatment; Rio doesn’t have even fifty,” he said.

“The huge contrast between Rio and São Paulo is that in São Paulo they are using state money to finance this service while in Rio they are relying too much on the federal government, and the money the federal government is putting on this treatment of crack is very small.”

Since São Paulo started its program in mid-January, 223 people have been admitted to hospital, but only seventeen of the admissions were involuntary.

END

 

Note: here are a few snippets from the recent Sao Paulo Study;

Altogether, more than six million Brazilians have tried cocaine or its derivatives at any point during their life, research by the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisa de Políticas Públicas do Álcool e Outras Drogas (National Institute for Public Policy Research on Alcohol and Other Drugs, INPAD) at the Federal University of São Paulo showed.

Of this group, two million have at some point usedcrackoxi or merla – two other highly destructive derivatives of cocaine, usually cut with gasoline or other household solvents – while one million had used at least one of these three drugs during the past year.

The research also showed that in the past twelve months to between January and March 2012….2.6 million adults and 244,000 young Brazilians consumed cocaine in some form.

Of these, 78 percent sniffed powdered cocaine, five percent smoked derivatives, and seventeen percent used the drug in both these ways. Some 27 percent of these used daily or more than twice a week and fourteen percent said that at some point they had used the drug intravenously

 

 

 

 

RECOVERING FROM RECOVERY RANT

…Help, someone, anyone, gimme something to get that taste out of my mouth!

I’ve just been mooching around the British recovery policy arrow . That all want us to RECOVER. They all want us to hurry along off that awful substitute drug methadone or whatever dulls your senses, and step into real life, the good life, the real shiny happy coloured world.

I’m seeing David Cameron, sitting there in his living room, talking intensly about ‘how to deal with this country’s drug problem’ about how Labour just left us all sitting on methadone by a policy drafted and financially driven ‘bums on clinic seats’ kinda approach (amongst other things).

In a way, it worked. EVERYONE got a ‘script. EVERYONE who went near heroin got a methadone or Suboxone (in fashion pharmaceutically with the Gov these days) prescription and got off the crazy merry go round of hunting for dope 24-7.

But I could go on and on about what I thought of the last governments policies and where we went wrong and right – and we definitely did – for the first time ever – make some right decisions with the drug users welfare in mind -and occasionally involved in that as well! Movement!

But my RANT for today……

I am soooooo sick of the way we are supposed to go to ‘health professionals’ for ‘recovery’. More money thrown at them (for us you understand).

They pull out their research statistics -most of which are dubious (we could tell you that if we were ar these meetings or were there designing the research with you).

RECOVERY has become religious. Like a light we have to follow to ‘come and accept the truth and waljk through the recovery door into the light…..’

STOP! WE are making a mistake! support us if you must -but support us to be a community – to support each other, to decide for ourselves what kinda warm and fuzzy workshops we want to attend on the way to our new life….I mean please! We are all individuals. WE need what everyone needs to make it;

We need a purpose.

We need love and support

We need community, family, bridges healed, bridges left behind.

We need to be able to deal with anxiety, pressure, deadlines, responsibility without always using drugs. Sometimes it might be appropriate but we need to know when that is and when that isnt. A joint in bed after a mental nites work -what the fuck is wrong with that?

We need to feel like we are contributing to something useful, that we are giving something useful to our community. We need to focus on these things – not be held up like a ‘recovery champion’.

Its embarrassing, its patronising, it is demeaning; it makes the service feel good. Especcially when they have their big ‘event day’.

‘Here we are, look commissioner, look at our guy/girl -and hear their story of where they have come from (the gutter of course) to how, with the help of their drug service, they are a new person, they have their lives back and even their children. We all well up, stuff a chip in our mouths, drink the free wine (oops, no alcohol at these kind of events), network, and everyone feels good and wants to know how they too can replicate this service.

Why dont we ever learn? Why dont we acknowledge those who really need some serious support, practical and emotional and help them to help themselves. Support them to support each other. Peer support works well — but not run like a church with a bloody door and light at the end of the tunnel and youve never really made until you get there. drug free.

Im so sick of it all. And now london is haveing the biggest ‘RECOVERY EVENT’ in the world in January????!!! Please god!

The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States

The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States

A Look at the Racial Disparities Inherent in USA’s Criminal-Justice System

SOURCE: AP/ California Department of Corrections

Eliminating the racial disparities inherent to our nation’s criminal-justice policies and practices must be at the heart of a renewed, refocused, and reenergized movement for racial justice in America.

A harrowing article by the Centre for American Progress, written by  Sophia Kerby | March 13, 2012

This month the United States celebrates the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 to commemorate our shared history of the civil rights movement and our nation’s continued progress towards racial equality. Yet decades later a broken criminal-justice system has proven that we still have a long way to go in achieving racial equality.

Today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. Further, racial disparities in the criminal-justice system threaten communities of color—disenfranchising thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education to millions more. In light of these disparities, it is imperative that criminal-justice reform evolves as the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

Below we outline the top 10 facts pertaining to the criminal-justice system’s impact on communities of color.

1. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.

2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.

3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.

4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.

5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.

6. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percent over the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.

7. The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses. According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.

8. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.

9. Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement is exaggerated by racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denying 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their African American population.

10. Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison. Evidence shows that spending time in prison affects wage trajectories with a disproportionate impact on black men and women. The results show no evidence of racial divergence in wages prior to incarceration; however, following release from prison, wages grow at a 21 percent slower rate for black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts. A number of states have bans on people with certain convictions working in domestic health-service industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—areas in which many poor women and women of color are disproportionately concentrated.

Theses racial disparities have deprived people of color of their most basic civil rights, making criminal-justice reform the civil rights issue of our time. Through mass imprisonment and the overrepresentation of individuals of color within the criminal justice and prison system, people of color have experienced an adverse impact on themselves and on their communities from barriers to reintegrating into society to engaging in the democratic process. Eliminating the racial disparities inherent to our nation’s criminal-justice policies and practices must be at the heart of a renewed, refocused, and reenergized movement for racial justice in America.

Andrey Rylkov Foundation’s website shut down in Russia

Here is an article from our friends at Harm Reduction International, writing about a truly appalling situation (another one) to emerge from Russia -affecting our dear friends and peer activists at Andrey Rylkov Foundation.  This courageous HIV/AIDS, drug and human rights organisation has consistently raised their head above the parapet (in a country where it can be literally be beaten off), and given people much needed health and harm reduction information in a climate of fear and intimidation.  One can only imagine what that must be like, to work every day knowing that you could be arrested, imprisoned, fitted up on a trumped up charge (which has happened repeatedly to other HIV and human rights activists) while thousands upon thousands of people are desperate for the sterile syringes that you give out, and the HIV information you impart. Last World AIDS day, December 1st 2011, ARF were instrumental in supporting us at BP (and INPUD) to coordinate the global Russian embassy protest, an attempt to shame Russian officials about their inaction and lack of response to the HIV catastrophe unfolding in their country. We are deeply concerned at this latest attempt by the Russian government to silence anyone or any organisations that discuss methadone in what is an ” ongoing assault on HIV prevention” taking things to the “next level by moving to silence public health advocates whose only infraction has been to spread life-saving information online and to criticize the government for its own failures.” We will keep you posted of developments. Catch ARF on facebook, and join to keep up to date with what is looking to be a highly charged time in Russian life and politics.

 

 

 

Authors:  

Vladimir Putin wrote a recent column praising the potential for “internet-based democracy”. But the Russian government adopts rules allowing for websites to be shut down on a

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin's iron grip on power continues to circumvent free speech in Russia, as yet again, HIV & drug organisations like ARF are targeted.

whim, and has used those rules to close down HIV prevention sites.

He talked about free medical care being one of the priorities of Russian citizens. But that care denied to millions of Russian people.

While Prime Minister Putin spoke glowingly of digital democracy, his anti-drugs agency is censoring websites for writing about WHO essential medicine.

“[It’s over] methadone, plain and simple” said Anya Sarang, President of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, which had its website shut down over the weekend.

The government’s anti-drugs agency, FSKN Moscow Department demanded that the Andrey Rylkov Foundation’s service provider block their website, utilizing new rules adopted last year. The notification states it was due to “placement of materials which propagandize (advertise) the use of drugs, information about distribution, purchasing of drugs and inciting the use of drugs”

What the Foundation was doing was spreading the word about basic HIV prevention measures and commenting on the Russian government’s policies.

Amidst pro-democracy protests, the Russian authorities have taken what is an ongoing assault on HIV prevention to the next level by moving to silence public health advocates whose only infraction has been to spread life-saving information online and to criticize the government for its own failures.

Russia is home to one of the biggest populations of injecting drug users, and one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world. It is estimated that there are just under two million injecting drug users in Russia. In some regions, more than 80 percent of people living with HIV in the country contracted the virus through injecting with contaminated equipment.

According to the World Health Organization, methadone is an essential medicine, for treating heroin dependence and for preventing HIV transmission by reducing the practice of injecting. Multiple scientific studies back this up.

But the Russian government’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach to illicit drugs is well known and has resulted in the outright denial of methadone (or ‘opioid substitution therapy’). It is illegal in Russia.

The net result of these policies is a massive increase in the number of people living with HIV in the country over the last decade.

According to UNAIDS, “In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, there was a 250% increase in the number of people living with HIV from 2001 to 2010. The Russian Federation and Ukraine account for almost 90% of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region’s epidemic. Injecting drug use remains the leading cause of HIV infection in this region”.

“People all over the world take this medication for granted” says Sarang, “but here in Russia it’s central to our struggle against HIV and it’s banned. Now, even our speaking about it seems to be banned.”

This is not the first time Russia has attempted to censor civil society voices for public health. At the UN General Assembly talk on HIV last March the Russian delegation tried to stop a Ukrainian drug user from speaking about HIV prevention. Fortunately, others were not happy with such censorship and the effort failed.

“The right to information is essential to realizing the right to health,” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, in a statement. “A government agency such as Federal Drug Control Service should not have the ability to ban websites at the whim of a bureaucrat. This is particularly so when considering the impact of censoring discussions relating to drug addiction or HIV/AIDS.”

For years, human rights advocates like the Andrey Rylkov Foundation have argued that Russia’s colossal failure to provide vital services is a breach of its obligation under international law to respect, protect and fulfill the right to health. The government’s latest crackdown against public health activists has turned the matter into an issue of freedom of expression.

Mr. Putin says that democracy needs “efficient channels for dialogue… communication and feedback,” while the government’s actions silence people fighting to raise issues the government is refusing to face. This silences the spread of information. It silences the democratic process.

Source of publication: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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