Australia Harm Reduction Strategies Serve as Model for Other Countries, UNAIDS Official Says
The Australian government's efforts to curb the spread of HIV by advocating harm-reduction initiatives, such as needle-exchange programs and drug substitution therapy, for injection drug users serve as a model for other countries throughout the region, UNAIDS Asia Pacific Director Prasada Rao said recently, the AAP/Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Rao said that Australia has called on Asian states to increase harm-reduction programs and examine current drug laws, especially in those states where penalties for drug users can include the death penalty. Rao said, "Australia is a good model for harm reduction programs and also for looking at drug laws and revamping them. In fact, quite a few countries in Asia have learned their harm reduction strategies in good examples from Australia." Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan said that it is still possible for countries to adopt effective prevention and harm reduction strategies to combat HIV without encouraging drug use. He said that a "very big important part of the Australian government policy" is working "strongly" with drug users. He added that "in terms of reducing the spread of HIV, we have to focus on prevention." Rao's comments came as McMullan announced an additional 640,000 Australian dollars, or about $470,000, for nongovernmental organizations working in Asia (Corben, AAP/Sydney Morning Herald, 5/3).