Agenda 2. Leadership in the AIDS Reponse
Delivered by Jeffry P. Acaba, NGO Asia Pacific
Thank you, President Dreifuss, for your remarks and your continuous leadership towards decriminalization of drug use and being a beacon of hope to the world in this era where more and more countries are waging wars against people who use drugs. Our Delegation would also like to recognize UNAIDS in its stronger statement towards the necessary reforms on drug policies globally.
I was with Luis Loures on his visit in my country, the Philippines – thank you, Luis, for the visit to listen to what’s happening on the ground. And true enough, we have seen that inspite of an effective HIV programme to reach out to people who inject drugs, the extreme punitive environment that my government is implementing, which is killing drug users, including those suspected of using, make it difficult for these programmes to take place. From people who use and inject drugs, we also heard that while there is an interest among these communities to provide peer-led needle and syringe programs, but they have to stop due to fear of being killed. There is enough evidence at this stage that harm reduction works and war against drugs uses resources that give no results. And governments committed to provide harm reduction services and program to guarantee these services will reach the population who need them, but these are not enough. If you live in a country where you have a President, such as ours, who proclaims people who use drugs as NOT human beings, discourses around service delivery alone is not enough. We have to strongly condemn drug-related killings in the Philippines and end punitive laws in other countries where this is happening. As part of an international community, we need to be frank and say, “enough is enough”! We need a stronger political commitment to end criminalization against people who inject drugs.
In this regard, the NGO Delegation would like to congratulate the drug policy reforms that Switzerland and the leadership of former President Dreifuss has done, as well as Netherlands, Portugal or Iran’s efforts towards the decriminalization of drug use We need more countries to follow these examples, that are based on evidence, rather than ideology. And we need the leadership of UNAIDS and the leadership of UNODC to sustain and expand these policy changes.
I would like to end by sharing that two weeks ago, 11 gay men who were about to engage in sexual activity under the influence of drugs in the Philippines were arrested, and one of those living with HIV’s status was publicly announced on TV without his consent. We need to understand that criminalization does not only impact one population, but collectively cripples the progress that we are making in the HIV response. The human rights abuses of key populations, and most importantly people who use drugs, must end if we want to end this epidemic. We must move the world towards decriminalizing people who use drugs. Enough is enough!