Nothing About Us Without Us

In January 2008, the “First Consultation on the Prevention of HIV Related to Drug Use” in Goa, India, provided a platform for Asian drug user activists to hold a regional consultation and develop the Goa Declaration, building on the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) Vancouver Declaration, effectively giving birth to the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD). ANPUD members believe that a regional drug user advocacy network is crucial. Asia is home to the greatest number of drug users living in countries with some of the world’s worst drug policies while at the same time banning or failing to support harm reduction services, emphasizing punitive drug treatment and repressive drug war approaches instead. These countries ignore their Injecting Drug Use (IDU)-related HIV epidemics. ANPUD was established to address the dire health and human rights situation of people who use drugs in Asia and globally.

The criminalization of drug users and the failure of most Asian governments to accept harm reduction at a national level has been a driving factor for Asian drug using communities to want to join together and find regional partners to help advocate for policy harmonization and rights of drug users. There are many unaddressed needs of people who use drugs in Asia, including: the need for comprehensive and locally-designed and driven harm reduction approaches, access to voluntary drug treatment and related health care services, access to HIV treatment, and hepatitis B/C treatment for both monoinfected and HIV-co-infected people, and other pressing issues that disproportionately affect people who use drugs.

The core belief behind the formation of ANPUD is that people who use drugs (PUD) living in various countries or regions coming together with one voice can make a bigger impact in changing the current scenario of drug related problems, and can work more effectively towards creating a better environment for people who use drugs and their communities, building from inside the community on out. There are over 4 million people who use drugs in the Asia region, more than in any other part of the world and yet our voices are rarely heard.

We estimate that for every one hundred people who inject drugs in the Asia roughly 30 will be living with HIV , 60 will be infected with hepatitis C and about 10 will be detained in prisons or compulsory treatment centres . Of that 100, we estimate that not even 1 will have access to adequate health, legal and social services . We believe all people who use drugs in Asia have been subject to discrimination and stigma related to drug use.

We believe that punitive drug laws, ineffective, unproven policy, criminalisation of drug use and discrimination and stigma against people who use drugs stops us from attaining health and quality of life; it means they are unable to access quality, evidence based and voluntary services for the treatment of drug dependence, prevention and treatment of blood borne viruses and other infectious diseases as well as other health, social and legal services. The criminalisation of drug use and forced nature of drug detoxification, rehabilitation and treatment in much of Asia means that people who use drugs are detained without access to health services and often in settings which put us at higher risk for HIV, TB and Hepatitis C infection.

We believe that if the attitudes, laws and policies related to drug use were changed then the following would be possible:

• People who use drugs would have the knowledge, commodities and opportunities to safely use drugs;

• People who use drugs could voluntarily choose to enter quality, evidence based dependence treatment;

• People who use drugs would have equal opportunities to improve their health and quality of life, and,

• Drug use would no longer be a criminal activity; arrest and detention in prisons and other closed settings would not occur based on drug use alone

We believe that before any effective change is made to governments’ and communities’ responses to drug use; considerable shifts in both attitudes to drug use and the policies and laws which affect people who use drugs need to be made. This can be optimal only with the meaningful involvement of people who use drugs in all levels of the response to drug use.

The Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD) is uniquely placed to bring together and support people who use drugs in the Asia to represent and speak about our lives and needs. In the spirit of unity, support, equality, inclusiveness and collaboration, ANPUD will work through drug user networks in Asia to affect changes in policies, laws and attitudes by fostering the meaningful participation of people who use drugs in all levels of the response to drug use.