HIV/AIDS, Injection Drug Use Constitute ‘Unprecedented Crisis’
HIV/AIDS among injection drug users is an "unprecedented crisis," and injection drug use in several countries has led to the outbreak of major HIV epidemics in the general population, delegates at the second International Policy Dialogue on HIV/AIDS said, according to a UNAIDS release. The symposium, which was organized by UNAIDS, Health Canada, the Government of Poland, the Open Society Institute and the Canadian International Development Agency, was held Nov. 12 through Nov. 14 in Warsaw, Poland. Delegates issued a declaration calling for an intersectoral and comprehensive response to the problem and said that drug control laws should not hinder prevention efforts. "In a world with AIDS, we cannot afford to drive people who use drugs into hiding through stigma, neglect and persecution. Instead, we must put in place measures that reduce the harm caused by drug use, thereby reducing vulnerability to HIV," Dr. Kathleen Cravero, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said. The meeting also assessed the effectiveness of harm reduction programs, according to the release. "There is overwhelming scientific evidence that a harm reduction package consisting of needle and syringe programs, substitution treatment and outreach interventions can prevent and even reverse an HIV/AIDS epidemic among injecting drug users. There is however an urgent need to review and revise drug policies to ensure that these approaches are implemented in time and on a sufficient scale to prevent further catastrophes," Dr. Alex Wodak of St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia, said. Representatives of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Health Organization and the U.N. Development Programme were also in attendance (UNAIDS release, 11/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.