INPUD LAUNCHES FOUR NEW DOCUMENTS OF THE DRUG USER PEACE INITIATIVE

INPUD LAUNCHES FOUR NEW DOCUMENTS OF THE DRUG USER PEACE INITIATIVE.

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.

Anthrax Warning for European Heroin Users -especially Brits

ANTHRAX WARNING -including the most up-to-date and well researched guide on the subject of ANTHRAX and the contamination of street heroin -and ARE WE AT RISK? Thanks to INPUD for the information below and their new guide.

OK, so the picture is pretty horrid but it is nothing to how bad an anthrax infection can get -along with it being FATAL for some of our heroin using peers. This is an extremely serious (sometimes fatal) infection that, although still uncommon, it continues to rear its deadly head since it first popped up on the scene a few years back. Now this affects:

INJECTORS of ALL MODES -intravenous AND intramuscular AND subcutaneous (or in street speak, mainlining, and IM (in the muscle like top of arm, front of thigh, or muscle area of bum cheek), or skin popping – right into the fat/skin (not deeper, like into the muscle).

SMOKERS – Yes, you heard right. This also affects heroin smokers.

SWALLOWING – Yep, you read it right. Read the guide for more info on gastrointestinal infection from swallowing or inserting street (anthrax spore infected) heroin (smuggling, hiding internally etc -this concerns you too!)

INPUD’s INPUT

INPUD (International Network of People who Use Drugs) have thoroughly researched the available information on anthrax spores in our street heroin and how it has been affecting users AND popping up in places across Europe, mainly Britain and have produced a brief (but thorough) guide (PDF) for print out, sharing and dissemination amongst your peers and user groups. See also INPUD’s main website and blog. (copy freely but credit INPUD!)

Just to pull out a few interesting bits, INPUD’s up to date and well researched guide for heroin users and health workers on anthrax can be found here; INPUDanthrax …

Black Poppy lifted some text from INPUD’s excellent guide in order to flesh out the background a bit -and why it should concern us, especially in the UK. INPUD’s Guide states;

“…Subsequent to the crisis in Scotland during 2009/10, where an outbreak of anthrax infected 47 people, causing 14 fatalities; further cases and deaths have been reported this year in Germany, Denmark, and France. Scotland has again been affected, with a confirmed case in Lanarkshire on 24th July this year….

……Although at the time of this publication, no further cases have been reported on the European mainland, anthrax infection continues to infect, hospitalise, and kill heroin users throughout the UK.”

It goes on to say;

“…..The spores found in the heroin responsible for the recent cases in Germany were shown to be indistinguishable from those found in the 2009/10 cases in Scotland. This suggests that the same batch of heroin could be responsible….

INPUD’s guide goes on to state clearly….

“…Research published subsequent to the 2009/10 outbreak has produced no evidence of nefarious intent, with the heroin likely being contaminated by the use of bone-meal based cutting agents, or contact with animal hides whilst in Turkey, during transit from the Afghan source…”

The guide shares a bit of background as well, which i have again copied for you here…
On the 17th June 2012, a heroin injector presented to a Berlin Hospital with symptoms of cutaneous anthrax i.e. infection at the injection site. Symptoms were black eschar (black dry scab), massive swelling, erythema (redness) and thrombosis.
Diagnosis was confirmed at the Robert Koch Institute by PCR, and serology showed that this was an anthrax infection due to the injection of an anthrax-contaminated batch of heroin.
Subsequent to the crisis in Scotland during 2009/10, where an outbreak of anthrax infected 47 people, causing 14 fatalities; further cases and deaths have been reported this year in
Germany, Denmark, and France. Scotland has again been affected, with a confirmed case in Lanarkshire on 24th July this year.

This is the best guide we have seen on this subject –

For the INPUD ANTHRAX Guide:  INPUDs Guide on ANTHRAX for heroin users
Just about everything you need to know right now about anthrax is in this guide.
Topics include;
What is anthrax?
Routes of Infection
Smuggling heroin
Can you identify it?
Can you filter out the anthrax spores?
White Vs Brown (heroin)
Signs and Symptoms
What to look out for.
Advanced Infections
Treatment
Risks to Family and Friends?
Useful links – and more. Including some very unpleasant (though real) pictures.
After thought...; Anyone who has a proven case of anthrax in any country, please dont forget (if you or a friend is able) to let your local large drug service or drug user group know about it (so we can share information, anonymous is fine of course) -or even tell us – at BP or INPUD.
It is essential these episodes are recorded -and sometimes, as we well know, we may need to do it ourselves to make sure its done and disseminated.  It wouldn’t be impossible for some medics around the entire globe to attempt to treat what might be a milder anthrax case and then not identify it or record it properly etc etc. Is it possible there could be more cases globally?? There may have been deaths not recorded accurately, (now that feels like a pretty common scenario for ‘junkies’ who die – (I’m going to be really rocking the boat here but…) 30 years experience tells me that health issues (like ulcers, COPD, necrotic skin around abscesses not treated, kept or healing  properly etc (esp if one’s homeless etc) can be overlooked because, for example, as one coroner said on camera “We leave the junkies til last because we already know they’re OD’s so it don’t take us long at the end of the day”…..I swear to God I heard a coroner say that. What if the drug user also has HIV or HCV, then they have to be kept quarantined. Hassle, hassle, hassle! Especially if they have no loved ones…What happens then if that person is covered in weeping sores and the coroner is overworked, underpaid AND a bigot -all at the same time!
No, (we need a little quiet investigation one of these days soon regarding the attitudes towards ‘junkies’ at coroners and funeral places my friends…) OK so it is rocking the boat but how many more of us to just get stamped ‘OVERDOSE’ on the death certificate when there could have been a myriad of things that precipitated that.
I know its complex, and people are busy and services short of money, but sometimes its worth remembering the very very painful reality that junkies are loathed mostly, or at least misunderstood, or for medics confronting a dead ‘opiate addict’ for example on a busy workday- suddenly shoot straight to the top (or bottom) of the pile -as a very straightforward case of an opiate overdose….How many times has that answer not provided family and friends with a believable occurrence  How many times are there no police reports clearly written out, or evidence gathered, or questions asked or investigated, friends questioned, or the personal doctors getting involved…? Let alone proper toxicology reports…
In fact – I was involved in research in Britain about 8 or 10 years back amongst coroners within the UK (or maybe it was across the 33 boroughs in London…). In any case it was voluntary for them to take part, and only a small percentage did, but what that told us was worrying. Ill dig some material out – but check out your country, ask your academic mates and allies to help; just how DO they record the number of drug related deaths in your country – and where are those results fed into?
Have an off the record chat with your local coroner, or funeral dude/dudette, morgue technician etc. Write an article about it.
Dont forget to check out http://inpud.net and http://inpud.wordpress.com

Video of the Russian Embassy Protest Dec 1st 2011

This is a video of the global protest that was held on World AIDS day 2011, in around 12 cities around the world, led by the drug using community and INPUD, the International Network of People who Use Drugs -protesting against to the Russian government’s shameful inaction regarding the drugs and HIV catastrophe unfolding in the region.

Users Unite Around the Globe in Support of their Russian Peers -an overview

Posted on December 5, 2011
New York City Kicked off the global protest on the eve of World AIDS Day, and were followed by 12 other cities

New York City Kicked off the global protest on the eve of World AIDS Day, and were followed by 12 other cities

POST Press Release (please feel free to share this post on your website, but remember to link it back to here! Thanks!)

On World Aids Day, 2011, just a few short days ago, harm reduction organisations led by people who use drugs and supported by the International Network of People who Use Drugs(INPUD) gathered outside Russian embassies in cities across the world in the largest ever global show of solidarity by and for people who use drugs.

The protests, entitled ‘Shame Russia Shame’, was directed at Russia’s highly controversial drug policies which are believed to be driving the EEC regions HIV and TB epidemics. Injecting drugs with contaminated equipment is driving Russia’s HIV epidemic, now the fastest growing in the world and it is reflected in the numbers; as many as 80% of new infections are occurring amongst people who inject drugs (PWID), in a total HIV positive population of approx 1.3million. With this in mind, recent projections forecast an additional 5 million people could become infected with HIV in the near future, unless Russia drastically transforms the way it is dealing with its HIV pandemic.

INPUD member Erin O'Mara says Russia's drug policies are 'brutalising' INPUD member Erin O’Mara says Russia’s drug policies are ‘brutalising’

Erin O’Mara, (editor of UK’s Black Poppy Magazine and INPUD member) who coordinated the global protest said the human catastrophe unfolding in Russia is almost indescribable in its brutality and neglect.”Russia has more heroin users than anywhere in the world yet because they offer no safe alternatives such as methadone or buprenorphine, and corruption has driven the price of heroin above what many Russian users can afford, new home made concoctions like desomorphine (nicknamed krokodil) are gaining ground, with devastating health consequences for the user”. Erin adds, “To scratch the surface of Russian drug policies, you find some of the most brutalizing policies in the world; where their should be harm reduction, regulation, treatment and support, there is neglect, abuse, imprisonment, disease and death.”

New York City groups Harm Reduction Coalition and Vocal NY, led the first of the World Aids Day demos, reading speeches and presenting a statement of demands to the Russian Embassy, which included the demand for Opiate Substitution Therapies (OST) such as methadone to be both legal and accessible to the 2 million or more injecting drug users in Russia.

Mexico lays its candlelight vigil in memory of those who have died of AIDS.

Mexico soon followed, again on the eve of World AIDS Day, with their protest led by Espolea, an organisation who’s young people delivered their heartfelt candlelight vigil to remember those who have died of AIDS and those with HIV facing so much oppression in the Russian Federation. It was a very generous tribute from our young colleagues in Mexico at a time in the drugs war when they are facing such enormous troubles of their own. (see video below).

As December 1st -and World AIDS Day dawned,  the global domino effect began and cities from Canberra, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Berlin, Bucharest, London, Paris, Porto, Stockholm, Tblisi, Toronto, delivered their protests, and a unified SHAME RUSSIA SHAME rang out in front of Russian Embassies across the world.

Londons’ Russian Embassy Protest

Speeches were given and a statement of demands were delivered to the Embassies which included demands to see the introduction of Opiate Substitution therapy (OST) and the scale up of needle and syringe programmes, which although currently funded by outside NGO’s and not by the Russian Government, numbers of services are still shockingly inadequate, with around 50 odd for the entire Russian Federation.

The city of Tblisi also took a brave step and protested outside their Swiss Embassy, which currently stands in for the Russian embassy which has been removed from Georgia for political reasons. Nevertheless, Georgians who have also seen the emergence of the drug Krokodil from across the Russian border were keen to show solidarity with their Russian drug using peers, as history has meant they were very aware of the might of the Russian police forces and their attitudes towards drug users. Georgians took a huge risk protesting in Tblisi but seemed buoyed by recent workshops in drug user organising and empowerment and peerwork with INPUD.

New Vector, in Tblisi in support of their Russian peers, and raising awareness of krokodil

Demonstrators had the special opportunity to read out a letter from Russia, from an INPUD member and drug user activist named Alex, who spoke directly to his peers across the world about Russia’s indifference and the strength he gains from a unified drug using community.

Alex writes: “To my despair, I live in a country where the means don’t justify the ends Where it’s easier to save the lives of healthy people by destroying those who are sick. Where ethics and humanity have given way to contempt and cruelty. Where they evaluate prevention not in terms of possibilities and outcomes but dollars and popularity. I express my deepest gratitude to all of you who share my protest.  For me, World AIDS Day does not exist in Russia. For me World AIDS Day in Russia means white carnations and condolence cards.I’m alive today thanks to your help and your faith in our united strength. I wish us resilient spirits, and that love fills all of our homes. I’m with you today.”

The white slippers and carnations outside the Russian Embassy in Canberra, Australia

Demonstrators from the LGBT community also joined London’s embassy protest to add their voices against Russia’s recently passed St Petersberg bill, which, having already passed the first hearing, would severely further restrict the rights of the LGBT community. The oppression and marginalisation of the LGBT community also adds to a difficult environment to disseminate HIV prevention/treatment information. (click here for more info on this issue.)

 

The global protest was an exciting, moving and empowering event for all concerned, however everyone was acutely aware that Russian themselves were simply not safe enough to protest on World AIDS Day, no matter how peacefully. Although this protest had its roots in Moscow in 2009 on International Drug User Day, when 5 Russian activists were arrested after trying to lay red carnations and white slippers (the Russian symbol for the dead) at the steps of the Drug Control Service, the protest expanded on International Remembrance Day 2011. People in three countries took part, Budapest, Berlin and Barcelona and remembered their peers outside Russian embassies, again laying the symbols of the protest. This world AIDS Day,was a call out to the world that we will not let our Russian peers be forgotten -that we will stand side by side them as we all fight to ensure that Russian citizens have the right to humane, evidenced based, enlightened drug policies and treatment.

For more information and/or quotes from INPUD members and city organisers, please do not hesitate to get in touch with INPUD.

Contact: INPUD Deputy Project Co-ordinatorL eliotalbers@inpud.net who can put you in touch with the right person or answer your questions. For more articles on this issue see the protest website at http://russianembassyprotest.wordpress.com 

NOTE: A huge thank you to the global coordinators based in London – Women of Substance, Black Poppy Magazine, and Ava Project (London)– -and our partners in Eastern Europe: Andrey Rylkov Foundation, Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and all those organisations who took part in this event. INPUD members;  Plataforma Drogologica (Barcelona), Deutsch AIDS Hilfe (Berlin), Harm Reduction Coalition, Vocal NY (New York City) ,ASUD, Cannabis Sans Frontiere (Paris), AIVL, NUAA, CAHMA(Canberra)  CASOP (Porto) Association Intergration (Bucharest),Svenska Brukarforeningen (Stockholm), New Vector (Tblisi), CounterFit (Toronto) Chemical Reaction (Edinburgh) , Espolea (Mexico City)

Mat Southwell – 7 pillars of reform: how drug policy and practice could be transformed today

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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

The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with...

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.

50 Years of Prohibition…and where has it got us?

Check out this brilliant short film by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, – The worlds drug lords went to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at the  UN to publicly thank them for 50 years of prohibition – and why not?! It’s made them richer than their wildest dreams…And what do we have to show for the drug policy exported by the US to the rest of the world?? A massive black market that funds crime, violence and wars. Millions of people who use drugs languishing in prisons across the globe, (in many countries drug users make up the majority of the people in prison), 3 million people who inject drugs infected with HIV, millions more with Hepatitis C, murders, corruption, young people on the streets, communities and families torn apart. Of all the trillions of dollars being poured into the war on drugs, and it is this very war that is killing the people it is supposed to be protecting. We need to change our drug policies NOW. But these guys – and the United Nations wouldn’t agree…

Check it out! Well done HCLU. (interviews with HCLU, Youthrise International Network of People who Use Drugs, US Harm reduction Coalition.

%d bloggers like this: