The 2016 UNGASS adopted the agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target 3.3 on AIDS, Tuberculosis and viral hepatitis among PWID and included the strongest human rights provision ever. (8) In June 2017, United Nations and WHO called for a review and repeal of punitive laws that criminalize drug use and possession of drugs for personal use. (9) Behind these fascinating documents are the realities that the target 3.3 will be impossible to meet without a significant reform of current drug policies. Harm reduction does not have a sustainable future under the current poor level of political will and public receptivity. The criminalization strategy adopted by national drug control systems severely hinders the HIV response, as fear of arrest inhibits PWID from access and uptake of HIV services. Punitive laws have also contributed to police harassment and a variety of human rights abuses, thereby deterring access to HIV services. (10) This is particularly true in the region where countries have consistently opposed human rights and harm reduction approaches for people who use drugs.
“We live in the region where the Philippines war on drugs has resulted in more than 13000 killings and over a million arrests/surrenders of people who use drugs. Similarly the Cambodian war on drugs has resulted in more than 13000 arrests of people who use drugs. Countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam, Pakistan, India and Nepal are implementing similar forms of strategy, including compulsory detention centres and the death penalty. How can we expect anything more than mere survival with what is going around?”, said Rajiv Kaflay the Project Coordinator of ANPUD.
In the context of people who use drugs, the UNAIDS famous rhetoric of ‘Ending AIDS’ by 2030 has become another fantasy just like the vision of a drug free world. This has somehow failed to consider the fact that drug use is an inevitable and significantly growing reality and availability and access to comprehensive harm reduction services is essential beyond 2030. Additionally , the region is witnessing a transition of donors, shrinking funds and community spaces in the HIV response and everyone seems to naïvely expect that governments in the region are willing to support community participation and health and right-based approaches.
On World AIDS Day 2017, we, the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD) call on Asian governments, UNODC, UNAIDS, WHO, OHCHR and other Bi-lateral and Multi-lateral funding agencies to: