Increased Political Will, Investment In Harm Reduction Needed To Ensure Drug Users Not ‘Left Behind’ In Global HIV Response

Huffington Post: Left Behind: Why the Global HIV Response Is Failing People Who Use Drugs
Rick Lines, executive director of Harm Reduction International in London

“…[D]espite the high visibility that the [AIDS 2016] conference generates, those working on HIV and injecting drug use were sorely disappointed by the lack of attention given to drug use issues, including harm reduction. More worryingly, this omission from the AIDS conference program reflects the increasing invisibility of drug use issues within the wider global HIV response. People who inject drugs are considered a ‘key population’ in the global HIV response — meaning that ending AIDS among them is vital to ending AIDS everywhere. Harm reduction, which includes interventions such as needle and syringe exchange and opioid substitution therapy, is the most cost effective way to achieve this. … But harm reduction remains grossly underfunded. … Donor governments and institutions have already withdrawn support for harm reduction and now UNAIDS’ political leadership on drug related issues is dwindling. People who use drugs are being left behind and only a major injection of political courage, backed up by a redirection of the necessary resources away from drug control and into harm reduction, will change this” (7/28).

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