The HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is increasing at an alarming rate. In some instances HIV prevalence is as high as 80% within certain drug user communities. In 2009 the World AIDS Campaign started a programme to strengthen and support campaigning on drug use and universal access.
It is estimated that 15.9 million people inject drugs in 158 countries and territories around the world. The overwhelming majority (80%) live in low- and middle-income countries. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, up to 30% of all HIV infections occur through injecting drug use. Most affected regions are Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltic States and South East Asia, with growing concern that injection drug use is now taking a firm hold in communities in sub-Saharan and West Africa.
Despite overwhelming evidence in favor of harm reduction as an effective HIV prevention strategy, and despite endorsements by UNAIDS, WHO and UNODC, the global coverage of harm reduction intervention remains poor, especially in countries where such services are in need most. Only 2-3 percent (200-300 million U.S. dollars) of all the available resources for AIDS is spent on harm reduction. Most governments treat addiction as a crime and use repressive and extreme measures that deny drug users human rights rather than put public health needs first.
Human rights abuses against people who use drugs are widespread, and they impede HIV prevention, treatment care and support efforts. Examples of this are the denial of harm reduction services, discrimination in accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART), abusive law enforcement practices, disproportionate criminal penalties, and coercive and abusive drug dependence treatment. Moreover, vulnerable groups, including young people and women have been neglected and sidelined in HIV prevention strategies relating to injecting drug use.Governments need to fully commit to the widespread provision of harm reduction strategies aimed at intravenous drug users, such as free needle exchanges and providing substitutes to illicit drugs, such as methadone.
This website space is an opportunity to share information link resources and keep our partners and people with a keen interest in drug use linked to and updated on global events in the world of drug users and harm reduction. If you have anything you would like to post on this page please send materials, links and any other relevant information to Greg Gray, the Key Populations Campaign Coordinator.
For links to valuable information on drug use and HIV explore the folders below.