Christian Science Monitor Examines Pres. Obama’s Reversal of Decades-Old Drug Policy
The Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday examined the ways that President Obama's reversal of decades-old drug policy, by approving federal funding for needle and syringe exchange programs, may impact the rest of the world.
Proponents of "'harm reduction,' an approach to drug use that puts public health and education before law enforcement" welcome the change as a "vital step by a country that for decades has viewed illegal drugs almost exclusively through the lens of prohibition," the Christian Science Monitor reports. The International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) is holding its annual conference this week in Bangkok.
Christian Science Monitor writes, "Equally crucial, [harm reduction proponents] say, is U.S. support for international programs in developing countries where millions of injecting drug users (IDUs) are at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, slowing other recent gains in fighting the disease."
Despite the fact that "virtually all" United Nations agencies have adopted harm reduction approaches, U.S. diplomats continue to object to their inclusion in U.N. counternarcotics declarations. "The U.S. has been a big block on harm reduction at the international political level.... It's beginning to change, and it's changed quite suddenly," according to Gerry Stimson, executive director of the IHRA.
The Christian Science Monitor writes: "Experts on HIV/AIDS argue that needle exchanges, peer-led education, and substitute therapies such as methadone offer a proven way to prevent new infections among IDUs. But only a fraction of the $14 billion spent globally last year on tackling the disease went into such programs, says Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria."
While people in the developing world are living longer thanks to antiretroviral drugs, IDU populations continue to be hard it by HIV, with dirty needle transmission accounting for 30 percent of cases outside of sub-Saharan Africa. "The latest data on survival shows amazing progress in the world, both in developed and developing world, now that we're expanding access to treatment on a large scale, but no progress on IDUs," said Kazatchkine.
U.S. conservatives "argue that harm reduction sends the wrong message and is a back-door route to legalizing drugs" writes the Christian Scienist Monitor. In Asia, "governments often send addicts to military-style boot camps that inmates say are abusive and have low success rates," according to the Christian Science Monitor. However, some experts say the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Asia is forcing its leaders to rethink "the approach of law-and-order policymakers: China is rolling out methadone clinics and outreach services, for example, and Indonesia is inviting activists into jails," the Christian Science Monitor writes (Montlake, Christian Science Monitor, 4/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.