A young Russian and a message you can’t forget.

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Russia’s Aleksey Kurmanaevskiy speech delivered at the UN High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS in New York – June 9 2011 by INPUD on Thursday, 09 June 2011 at 18:33:

INPUD is a global peer-based organisation that seeks to promote the health and defend the rights of people who use drugs. We will expose and challenge stigma, discrimination and the criminalisation of people who use drugs and its impact on our community’s health and rights. We will achieve this through processes of empowerment and international advocacy. Find us at: http://www.inpud.net, Facebook/INPUD, Twitter/INPUD. Blog at: http://www.inpud.wordpress.comThe following speech was delivered by Aleksey Kurmanaevskiy at A dialogue on HIV and Human Rights at: Universal Access for Key Affected Populations. This event was hosted by the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa together with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This session took place at the High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS at the United Nations in New York City.

Aleksey is from Russia and is 30 years old. He has been dependent on drugs for 15 years, and has been living with HIV for 11 years. He is a member of the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) and will speak with you today for people who inject drugs, those who are living with HIV\AIDS, and for the members of the drug using community who are no longer with us because of HIV\AIDS, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, and drug Overdoses.

Text of Aleksey’s speech:

Q1 – Highlight key challenge or obstacle & successful action or approach:

I would like to call to attention the laws and practices that are based on the criminalization of people who use drugs and the consequences of these measures. In our opinion, the practice of imprisoning people who use drugs in order to deny them their freedom or subjecting them to coerced treatment for the personal use of drugs should be ended. Imprisonment and coerced treatment are clear breaches of human rights that undermine the public health of people who use drugs and the wider community.

The criminalisation of people who use drugs and the widespread stigma and discrimination against our community results in people hiding and living in fear and secrecy. This can cut people off from family support and drives people further into problem drug use. As such, punitive laws can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of HIV prevention strategies with my community and undermine access to and retention in services. As a result, punitive laws are costly and ineffective.

The introduction of science-based harm reduction interventions like needle and syringe programmes, opioid substitution therapy (OST), and overdose management programmes is saving the lives of my community in many countries in the world. We have the experience, the evidence and tools to end concentrated epidemics of HIV among people who inject drugs. 30 years of evidence demonstrates that OST radically improves the health and wellbeing of people who take drugs and supports our engagement in HIV and TB treatment. Significantly OST gives people who are dependent on heroin and other opiate drugs an alternative to crime and allows us to fully participate in and contribute to society. History has shown that when people who use drugs are involved in the design, development and delivery of HIV prevention interventions, the reach is greater, the quality is higher and there is better value for money.

Q2 – 1 or 2 key recommendations to HLM on practical way forward:

I am a husband and father of two sons and very much want peace and mutual understanding within my family. I learned that it is absolutely critical to listen to my loved ones. Before agreeing on a solution, we consider all of the possible alternatives. The very welfare of our family depends upon this process of open dialogue.

I have drawn this analogy deliberately. The family can be viewed as a microcosm of society. We are all members of one global family. Though we all have unique worldviews, customs, and ways of life, there is no doubt that we have to deal with the HIV epidemic together. The foundation of such mutual understanding through dialogue is the first step in this process.

Around the world people who inject drugs are giving sterile injecting equipment to their friends, are sharing education and knowledge and supporting service access. At a global and regional level drug user organisations are supporting consultation and contributing to policy development. At a country level we can provide a community watch dog function helping donors to spend money wisely and programmers to deliver services effectively.

Our challenge to all countries is meaningfully involve people who use drugs in the design, implementation and monitoring of the HIV response. If you are serious about engaging us as true partners then this has include the resourcing of our organisations and the meaningful participation of our representatives. This is key to reversing the trajectory of the HIV epidemic and bringing under control the spiraling costs of HIV. It is time to stop framing my community always as the problem and instead to recognise that we are a key part of the solution to HIV.

Your views on HIV and Drug Use

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Some news to encourage input from you – the community of people who use drugs!

In June 2011, the world will come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response at the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS from 8 –10 June, in New York.

The High Level Meeting will comprise plenary meetings and up to five thematic panel discussions. An informal interactive hearing with civil society will take place two months beforehand in April 2011. The one day informal interactive hearing with civil society will be chaired by the President of the General Assembly and organized with the active participation of people living with HIV and broader civil society.The objective of the hearing is to create a space where civil society, NGOs and the private sector can interact with Member States and offer input to the comprehensive review process.

To facilitate civil society involvement in the high-level meeting and ensure an open, transparent and participatory process, the President of the General Assembly, in partnership with UNAIDS and upon nominations by Civil Society Selection Committee the Civil Society Task Force comprises representatives from civil society and the private sector (yours truly is one of them). The Task Force will, among other things, help determine the format, theme and programme of the civil society hearing, as well as help identify speakers for the civil society hearing and HLM plenary and panel discussions.

We have an INPUD representative (International Network of People who Use Drugs) on the Civil Society Task Force to bring the voice of people who use drugs to the group which will act as a mechanism to facilitate input of civil society and the private sector in the 2011 Review, including the preparatory process.

ICASO has worked hard to ensure the CSTF is representative of the various world regions and constituencies (such as women, sex workers, people who use drugs, men who have sex with men etc, ) and balanced in gender and ethnicity. (INPUD also had a member on the Selection Committee). It is important as well as challenging that INPUD has a member on these committees as it continues to forge ahead with bringing the voice of the drug using community into global HIV discourse.

For the vast majority of people who inject drugs (but also other users such as snorters of drugs) HIV/AIDS still lives large. Significant HIV transmission factor in many regions of the world, driving fast-growing epidemics that affect users, particularly in in Eastern Europe & Central Asia, Asia & the Pacific, Latin America and North Africa. We know what prevents HIV, and we have a good handle on treating it these days, yet we still continue to see obstacle after obstacle put in place by the governments of the world who refuse to see people who use drugs as worthy of essential harm reduction and HIV and drug treatment. Cost-effective interventions, including needle and syringe exchange programmes, opioid substitution therapy, and expanded access to HIV treatment and care, are supported on public health and human rights grounds; however, only around 10% of people who use drugs worldwide are being reached, and far too many are imprisoned for minor offences or detained without trial and/or are suffering from horrific human rights violations -because they use drugs and/or have HIV and use drugs. To change this situation takes commitment, advocacy, and political courage to advance the ‘action agenda’.

The coming blogs that will appear on the INPUD blog (and some links here) on this issue should be an interesting account on how the drug using community is able to assert its voice on the UN community but by having a voice on committees such as these can only be a step forward.

Stay tuned and please, if you have any views or comments on HIV and how you see it affecting people who use drugs, I urge you to comment here and I will do my best to incorporate your thoughts into the views I bring forward to the Task Force, and through them, to the United Nations.

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

World Aids Day, 1st Dec 2010

HIV and Me

HIV and Me

Here is a poem to bring home a personal moment for World Aids Day – a poem about the day of an HIV diagnosis…

The Shock

The Dr was smiling

He read and said ‘You’re – negative…’

Then, – ‘Hang on, I’ve made a mistake…’

And shuffling his papers…

He went red.

He said

“Oh no, you’re positive”.

Such a shock

A huge shock like an earthquake had hit,

The ground had opened,

Trapped in circle of heat.

I felt slapped.

I was trapped. In a surreal moment.


Its not real!

Seeing a crisis unfold

Everything put on hold…Is it real?

The shock –

Life would change,

Never the same.

Couldn’t stop the mo-ment


The more the words came,

The more real it became.

The shock, the horror, to be looking through a shattered pane.

Yes its real.

Shattering shock.

Pull. Myself. Together. Breathe.

I start to separate.

Where did I mess up? What it this – or that?

Where did it all go wrong? How long?

In the hazy mist I saw a nurse.

I left myself in the waiting room.

Sent away with a brown envelope of leaflets.


To face.

My boyfriend, downstairs.

A brown envelope – of leaflets.

Friday afternoon, the services closing.

Time alone with my leaflets in my brown envelope.

He’s waiting in the hallway.

Couldn’t see his brown envelope though…

Then we –

Both saw our brown envelopes together.

He looked afraid

He cried, I stayed

Strong. For a bit longer.

In the misty haze.

The shock walked us home.

To be alone, to read the bumpf,

Who to tell, my family? His?

The shock would just keep coming,

Now from others,

Now from home.

written by anon for World Aids Day..

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