Aids Alliance Aids Alliance

Support don't punish

Our film Somebody’s mother, somebody’s brother which we’re launching at AIDS 2012, features Alyona and Nga. Two people whose lives have been improved by accessing harm reduction services – including needle exchange and methadone.

We do this because we know it works. The body of evidence and momentum for change is growing. See two new reports from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Yet criminalisation of people who use drugs continues to fuel the HIV epidemic. People who inject drugs account for 30% of HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa, and up to 80% of infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Read more about what we’re calling for below. First, meet Alyona and Nga:

Alyona, 35

Alyona is a mother of one. She started injecting opiates as a student back in 1997 and has been using drugs for 15 years.

Since 2008, Alyona has been a client at ‘Vertical’, a civil society organisation in Kiev, Ukraine. During that time she has regularly received various services including HIV and STI testing, needle exchange, legal support and psychosocial support, both from specialist and peers, including attending self-help groups.  

In 2010 Alyona began to volunteer at ‘Vertical’, actively participating in activities, including HIV related events and training seminars.

‘Vertical' is one of more than 100 organisations in Ukraine which receives funding from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine for HIV prevention programmes reaching vulnerable groups.

Nga, 44

Nga is a business owner. He’s set up his coffee shop from home in Hanoi.

Nga started to use drugs back in 1995, and has been on methadone since February this year which has been the “most important change” in his life.

He attends the Gach Dau Dóng self-help group, which has over 200 members in Hanoi.

It’s one of the groups supported by SCDI (Supporting Community Development Initiatives) the Alliance Linking Organisation in Vietnam.

SCDI currently works with CBOs in five provinces (Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Vinh Phuc).

What we’re calling for

The heightened HIV risks faced by people who use drugs can no longer be ignored. Support don’t punish.


Invest in effective HIV responses for people who use drugs
Programmes that are essential for tackling HIV among people who use drugs must achieve the required scale. These include needle and syringe programmes and methadone programmes, antiretroviral treatment services for HIV positive drug users, counselling and other support services to help people adhere to medicines and to build skills and knowledge in changing behaviour, and legal services to defend  drug users against discrimination.

Don’t punish:

Governments must reform drug laws and policies that impose harsh laws penalties on people who use drugs
This punitive approach has failed to reduce levels of drug use but has increased stigma and discrimination, impeding people’s access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services that are essential to saving lives and curbing the spread of HIV. Criminalising and incarcerating drug users ruins lives and undermines HIV prevention.

Read the ‘Support don’t punish’ campaign statement in full here (2 pages). ‘Support don’t punish’ is a campaign  to stop HIV by calling for reform of government actions on drugs.

Read more on our approach to harm reduction here, and the work of Alliance Linking Organisations in Ukraine and Vietnam.

Watch the film.