Agenda 2. Leadership in the AIDS Response
Delivered by Aditia Taslim, NGO Asia Pacific (incoming)
In Asia and the Pacific, 1 in every 10 people living with HIV are people who inject drugs, and 9 in every 10 people who inject drugs living with HIV have hepatitis C. In Indonesia, the HIV prevalence among women who inject drugs in Indonesia is 42.1%. Despite the large number of evidence and data that show harm reduction saves lives and can prevent HIV and viral hepatitis infections; in many countries, it remains small-scale, if not, lacks political support or even made illegal/banned.
The state of the war on drugs enforced by many countries have continuously put people who inject drugs at greater risk of new HIV infection. This is reflected in many countries in South East Asia, where criminalisation of drug use, compulsory detention of people who inject drugs, and other legal barriers have prevented the effective delivery of basic HIV prevention package.
Further to this crisis is the threat of disappearing harm reduction services in countries experiencing transition to Middle-Income status, where many will no longer be eligible for Global Fund support and many of international funding will phase-out. This transition preparation is not well supported with bold leadership from governments to address the crisis.
In Indonesia, where I come from, increased repression, violence and war against drug-related crimes (including people who use and/or inject drugs) are often used by political leaders to gain political momentum and image credibility. It is particularly important for us, civil society, to push this agenda as we are heading towards 2019 Presidential Election.
On behalf of Rumah Cemara, we welcome the initiative that the UNAIDS is making towards developing policy recommendation as part of its Global Commitment to protect the health and human rights of people who inject drugs (on Do No Harm – Health, Human Rights and People Who Use Drugs and Harm Reduction Saves Lives) and to further lead Member States in making it happen.
I have been living with HIV for sixteen years and have witnessed the benefit of evidence-based initiatives such as Harm Reduction that has saved my life including many of my compatriots.
I am calling Member States to recognize and fully commit to Harm Reduction and call for bold political leadership of the Program Coordinating Board that is based on evidence and human rights, rather than punishment and repression. The business as usual approach towards ending the AIDS epidemic among people who inject drugs is not enough – and never will be. Harm reduction works – harm reduction saved my life!