10th December 2017: International Human Rights Day

10th December 2017: International Human Rights Day

India HIV/AIDS ALLIANCE organises an open and interactive dialogue on ‘Human Rights of People Who Use Drugs’

 New Delhi, December 9, 2017: India HIV Aids Alliance today organized an open and interactive dialogue on the ‘Human Rights of People Who Use Drugs’ at the Constitution Club in New Delhi to observe ‘International Human Rights Day’. The focus was on highlighting how people who use drugs are also entitled to the ‘right to health and safety: importance of prevention, treatment and care’ under the ‘Harm Reduction Advocacy Project’. The event was a country level policy dialogue to decriminalise personal consumption, include gender sensitive harm reduction policies and the identification of policy champions who would actively advocate for the cause. The opening panel was witness to several eminent speakers from the Government, Parliament, civil society and other development agencies. Some of the key attendees included Hon’ble Oscar Fernandes(Senior Member of Parliament) Abou Meri (Community Representative and President, Indian Drug Users Forum), R. K Jaiswal (IGP, Special Task Force, Punjab Police), Jarnail Singh (MLA, AAP), Divya Verma (Programme Officer, ILO), Tripti Tandon (Deputy Director, Lawyers Collective) and other senior dignitaries.

The welcome address was given by Simon Biddoe, Senior Programme Manager, Harm Reduction Advocacy in Asia, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, followed with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp by R. K Jaiswal (IGP, Special Task Force, Punjab Police) .The panellists spoke extensively on how investment across legal and policy disciplines is critical to ensure the necessary outreach and access to core services. They stressed on how the impact of such projects could be maximized to break the cycle of transmission of HIV among PWID population. The second panel of discussion and discourse featured speakers from the economic, political, civil society, media and cultural communities. They deliberated and debated on issues relating to the stigma and discrimination that was associated with people who’d taken drugs and contracted HIV.

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Shri Oscar Fernandes, Senior Member of Parliament said “I congratulate India HIV AIDS Alliance for all the efforts it has taken for the elimination of the HIV/AIDS. While there has been a steady fall in new HIV cases, the rate of drug abuse is consistently going up. We are witnessing an alarming increase in drug usage amongst youngsters and also resorting to violence as a consequence. Adequate and urgent measures need to be taken in this regard to see that the future generation of the country is protected against the dreaded epidemic of drug abuse.”

 Umesh Chawla, Director Policy & Programmes, India HIV AIDS Alliance said, “IHAA is working with the Global Fund to assist those patients who are HIV + and are drug users. This section of the population does not often ask for help as they feel prosecuted and compromised. Legally a strong environment needs to be created where progressive policies can be implemented to support the PWID population and ensure that there is a substantial reduction in harm.  Civil society needs to initiate meaningful dialogues with key stakeholders, advocacy efforts should be driven to collate strategic information that will provide the basis to initiate and further develop evidence-based interventions. The key takeaways and analysis from such projects will be made public through different media outlets. These can then be further used to create customized programs and initiatives for the PWID population.”

  1. K Jaiswal(IGP, Special Task Force, Punjab Police)stated that the objective of the Special Task Force is to control drug abuse through enforcement, de-addiction and prevention. Counselling and peer support is also a part of our deaddiction initiatives. We will continue to focus on these initiatives and hopefully control the serious drug problem in Punjab.

According to the WHO there are currently 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, and in 2016 1 million people died from HIV-related causes. People who inject drugs (PWIDs) are the risk group with the highest levels of HIV prevalence from among the key population groups. In three states of the north eastern region (Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland) HIV among PWIDS was an established problem that has been successfully controlled between 10–12%. Newer states where HIV among PWIDs has emerged as a major concern includes Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand averaged at 27.2%, Delhi and Rajasthan at 21.8% and Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh at 13.6% HIV prevalence among PWID.

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