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.

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