The whole point of criminalizing drug use is to stigmatize drug users. Consider why particular acts are seen as crimes in the first place.
We want to change society’s perception of drug users by empowering them to lead noble and productive lives and to contribute to society.
A number of high-level dialogues and initiatives have been commissioned by UN organizations to examine and address legal and political barriers to the provision and scaling up of harm reduction related to HIV and drug use.
The acceptance, development and expansion of harm reduction programs in countries that have traditionally employed deterrence and punishment as the primary response to the use of drugs is a remarkable achievement and a triumph for public health. What is striking is that in a few countries harm reduction has been driven by law enforcement agencies responsible for the administration of drug control.
The beginnings of harm reduction in the context of drug use is difficult to clearly define, as harm reduction is now equated with HIV prevention for PWID and not as drug treatment. This is mainly the outcome of many years of concerted advocacy efforts promoting needle syringe exchange and methadone or buprenorphine substitution, much after the HIV epidemic had swept through PWID in many Asian countries.
This article describes the development of harm reduction in South, South East and East Asia. In this article, Asia refers to twenty six countries stretching from Afghanistan in the west to China in the east. Except for a handful of small scale NGO run programs in a few countries in the 1990’s, harm reduction emerged late in the Asian region as a response to the threat of widespread HIV infection among people who inject drugs (PWID) and from them to their sexual partners and the general community.