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.
All posts tagged World Aids Day
Posted by Erin on January 29, 2012
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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 email@example.com 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)
Posted by Erin on December 6, 2011
Russia’s total war on drugs rejects harm reduction strategies. This is fuelling the HIV pandemic.
Protest this Thursday, 1 Dec, World AIDS Day, 4-6pm, Russian Embassy London. Meet corner Bayswater Road & Ossington Street, London W2 (near Notting Hill Gate tube). Website: http://goo.gl/CL9Be FaceBook: http://goo.gl/oyvHj Map: http://bit.ly/tfBkp3
Russian drug policies are exposing tens of thousands of people to prison/ disease /death. Demand rational, humane, evidenced-based responses to HIV and to drug use in Russia. Harm reduction is a human right!
Posted by Erin on November 27, 2011
On Dec 1st, 2011, World Aids day, people in 8 countries around the world will descend on Russian Embassies -To protest at the criminal treatment of people who use drugs – in the biggest catastrophe in the history of HIV in recent times. (See below for where and when).
In Russia today, we are bearing witness to one of the biggest, avoidable catastrophes in the history of HIV – the lack of response to the epidemic in Russia. We must point directly to the specific responsibility that Russian medical and public health officials bear for creating and sustaining this disastrous situation. Of particular concern are Russia’s, brutalising drug policies and its recently revised Total War on Drugs, which has resulted in further pushing people who use drugs into hiding, prison, and enforced detention, and severely compromising efforts from the international community to revert the trajectory of HIV/AIDS. The world is approaching a crossroads; a strong and decisive downward trajectory in the epidemic is possible in all countries -but it will only happen if the people who are most vulnerable to infection are supported and their human rights realised. Governments have legal obligations to act. Indeed, the implementation of harm reduction measures is consistant with and required by states obligations under international human rights law. 1,2.
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 1million. With this in mind, recent projections forecast an additional 5 million people could become infected with HIV in the near future, unless Russia transforms the way it is dealing with its HIV pandemic.6
With over 30,000 people dying from drug overdoses every year, numbers that can be shown to markedly reduce with the implementation of OST, and 150 becoming infected with HIV each day (2/3rds of which are injecting drug users), also evidenced to drastically reduce with the roll out of Needle and Syringe Programmes (NSP), it is upon everyone who cares about humanity, to demand an immediate transformational shift in Russia’s approach to HIV prevention and its treatment of drug users. Access to NSP and OST is in itself, a human right; UN Ruman Rights Monitors have specifically stated harm reduction interventions as necessary for states to comply with the right to health. 5)
1) UNIDCP Flexibility of Treaty positions as regards harm redcution approaches, decision 74/10 Geneva UN 2002 ,
2) UNODC World Drug Report Vienna 2009
3) Lancet July 2010 HIV in people who use Drugs
4) The right to the highest attainable standard of health; Article 12, comment 14 International Covenent on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights 2000
5) Barrett D et al; Harm Reduction and Human Rights, the Global response to drug related HIV Epidemics. London, HRI, 2009
6) News Release, Oct 7th 2011, Risk of HIV Hitting Catastrophic Levels; from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; Eurasian Harm Reduction Network; Harm Reduction International;
7) Articles 228-233 of the Russian Criminal Code
- Protest at Russian Embassies Worldwide: Dec 1st World Aids Day (russianembassyprotest.wordpress.com)
- Russia at risk of HIV Hitting Catastrophic Levels (russianembassyprotest.wordpress.com)
- Shame Russia Shame! (russianembassyprotest.wordpress.com)
- Denis Matveev: Drugs as a tool for political repression (inpud.wordpress.com)
- A young Russian with a message you can’t forget. (blackpoppymag.wordpress.com)
Posted by Erin on November 14, 2011
Here is a poem to bring home a personal moment for World Aids Day – a poem about the day of an HIV diagnosis…
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.
“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.
I can’t BELIEVE THIS!
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 real it became.
The shock, the horror, to be looking through a shattered pane.
Yes its real.
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.
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..
Posted by Erin on November 30, 2010