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U.N. Must Promote Harm Reduction As HIV Prevention Strategy Among Drug Users

The Guardian: To end HIV in drug users, stop chasing the dream of a drug-free world
Susie McLean, senior adviser on drug use and HIV for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance

“…The evidence for the effectiveness of harm reduction interventions — reducing the negative consequences of drug use rather than focusing solely on reducing drug use — is described by UNAIDS as irrefutable and all relevant U.N. agencies now endorse a harm reduction approach to HIV and drug use. … Yet in Vienna last week, references to harm reduction, needle and syringe programs, and opioid substitution therapy (OST) were contested. The policy process has been widely criticized, and the negotiations heavily influenced by countries including Russia who are vetoing harm reduction in favor of a bald restatement of the decades-old illusion of a drug-free world. … [I]t’s unbelievable that U.N. member states are likely to recommit to another ineffective and dangerous policy on drugs when it is put before them in New York next month, at the first U.N. General Assembly special session on drugs. While this strange corner of the U.N. system in Vienna continues to promote the fantasy of a drug-free world, we will continue to urge states to commit to two words: harm reduction” (3/21).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.