Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, July 23, 2010


The 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna was to be the stage for a major push to decriminalize currently illicit drugs worldwide. Unfortunately, this effort was upstaged by the equally pressing problem that funding for HIV prevention and the universal treatment promised just a few years ago is falling well short. Uganda, for example, has essentially run out of funding for antiretroviral drugs and can no longer treat new patients. Shockingly, as I noted here a couple of weeks ago, the same is true of Florida and Alabama.

But, the decriminalization campaign is still happening. This is the web site for the Vienna Declaration. You can read it, and if you like what you read, you can sign it!

Here's the gist:

Unfortunately, evidence of the failure of drug prohibition to achieve its stated goals, as well as the severe negative consequences of these policies, is often denied by those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo.25This has created confusion among the public and has cost countless lives. Governments and international organisations have ethical and legal obligations to respond to this crisis and must seek to enact alternative evidence-based strategies that can effectively reduce the harms of drugs without creating harms of their own. We, the undersigned, call on governments and international organisations, including the United Nations, to:

* Undertake a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies.
* Implement and evaluate a science-based public health approach to address the individual and community harms stemming from illicit drug use.
* Decriminalise drug users, scale up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options and abolish ineffective compulsory drug treatment centres that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.26
* Unequivocally endorse and scale up funding for the implementation of the comprehensive package of HIV interventions spelled out in the WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS Target Setting Guide.27
* Meaningfully involve members of the affected community in developing, monitoring and implementing services and policies that affect their lives.

So go for it -- everybody's endorsement matters, but there will be extra weight if you are a health care provider, legal advocate, social worker, counselor, law enforcement professional, a person in recovery or have any other connection to this issue. It's time for an entirely new public discussion, unencumbered by the failed ideologies that fuel the war on drugs.

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