INPUD, a policy partner of the Alliance in its Community Action on Harm Reduction project, is coordinating a major protest focused on Russian Embassies in 10 cities around the world.
Below is an extract from INPUD's press release about the action:
“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.
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.
Russian authorities have repeatedly come in for fierce international criticism over their policy towards the treatment of drug dependence, claiming, incorrectly, that the effectiveness of OST - opiate substitution therapy - has not been adequately demonstrated, and as such it is prohibited by law and promotion of its use – punishable by a jail sentence.
There are over 30,000 people dying from heroin overdoses every year (100,000 from drugs). These numbers can be shown to markedly reduce with the implementation of OST. 150 people become infected with HIV each day (2/3rds of which are injecting drug users). There is evidence that this would drastically reduce with the roll out of Needle and Syringe Programmes (NSP).
We 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 Human Rights Monitors have specifically stated harm reduction interventions as necessary for states to comply with the right to health.
Evidence has repeatedly shown the clear benefits to the individual and society as a whole when drug dependence is viewed as a public health issue, as opposed to a criminal one. Evidence also shows OST, combined with a range of harm reduction measures such as NSP, leads to a drastic reduction in the spread of new HIV infections in countries across the globe.
None of this more clearly demonstrated than in the Netherlands, a world leader in harm reduction, where in 2010 only ONE injecting drug user contracted HIV. In the UK, another country that has harm reduction at the centre of its HIV prevention strategy, prevalence of HIV amongst drug injectors is at 1.5%. Set this against a Russian HIV prevalence backdrop of 30-35%. The evidence on harm reduction has been clear for years. Why does Russia continue to turn its back?
The Russian government‘s estimated annual expenditure related to drug law enforcement) equals approximately 100 million US dollars. This amount does not include the money spent on detention and imprisonment. No money at all is allocated towards HIV prevention among the injecting drug using population.
This World Aids Day, December 1st 2011, we will echo the urgent voices of Russian drug users who are living and dying in the grip of an HIV and TB pandemic with almost no recourse or chance to engage in or promote an effective response.
SHAME RUSSIA SHAME!! THE WORLD IS WATCHING!!”
Follow the protests on Facebook.
Press enquiries to Eliot Albers at email@example.com or Damon.Barret@ihra.net - or firstname.lastname@example.org who can forward you to the correct location/contact, and in Russia, to Anya Sarang at email@example.com