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Why we need an international network

of drug user activists.


We are people from around the world who use drugs. We are people who have been marginalized and discriminated against; we have been killed, harmed unecessarily, put in jail, depicted as evil, and stereotyped as dangerous and disposable. It is now time to raise our voices as citizens, establish our rights and reclaim the right to be our own spokespersons striving for self-representation and self-empowerment:


  • To enable and empower people who use drugs legal or deemed illegal worldwide to survive, thrive and exert our voices as human beings to have meaningful input into all decisions that affect our own lives


  • To promote a better understanding of the experiences of people who use illegal drugs, and particularly of the destructive impact of current drug policies affecting drug users, as well as our non-using fellow-citizens: this is an important element in the local, national, regional and international development of these social policies.


  • To use our own skills and knowledge to train and educate others, particularly our peers and any other fellow-citizens concerned with drugs in our communities.


  • To advocate for universal access to all the tools available to reduce the harm that people who use drugs face in their day-to-day lives, including, i) drug treatment, appropriate medical care for substance use, ii) regulated access to the pharmaceutical quality drugs we need ii) availability of safer consumption equipment, including syringes and pipes as well as iii) facilities for their safe disposal, iv) peer outreach and honest up-to-date information about drugs and all of their uses, including v) safe consumption facilities that are necessary for many of us, e.g. those who are homeless.


  • To establish our right to evidence-based and objective information about drugs, and how to protect ourselves against the potential negative impacts of drug use through universal access to equitable and comprehensive health and social services, safe, affordable, supportive housing and employment opportunities


  • To provide support to established local, national, regional, and international networks of people living with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and other harm reduction groups, making sure that active drug users are included at every level of decision-making, and specifically that we are able to serve on the boards (of directors) of such organizations and be fairly reimbursed for our expenses, time and skills.


  • To challenge the national legislation and international conventions that currently disable most of us from living safe, secure and healthy lives.


Well aware of the potential challenges of building such a network, we strive for:


  • Values, which respect diversity and recognize each other's different backgrounds, knowledge, skills and capabilities, and cultivate a safe and supportive environment within the network regardless of which drugs we use, or how we use them


  • Spread information about our work in order to support and encourage development of user organizations in communities/countries where there are no such organizations


  • Promote tolerance, cooperation and collaboration, fostering a culture of inclusion and active participation.


  • Democratic principles and creating a structure that promotes maximum participation in decision making,


  • Maximum inclusion with special focus to those who are disproportionately vulnerable to oppression on the basis of their gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, etc.


  • to ensure that people who use drugs are not incarcerated (and that those who are incarcerated) have an equal right to healthy and respectful conditions and treatment, including drug treatment and access to health-promoting supplies such as syringes and condoms and medical treatment or at least equal to that they would receive outside


  • to challenge execution and other inhuman treatment of people who use drugs worldwide


Ultimately, the most profound need to establish such a network arises from the fact that no group of oppressed people ever attained liberation without the involvement of those directly affected by this oppression. Through collective action, we will fight to change existing local, national, regional and international drug laws and formulate an evidence-based drug policy that respects people's human rights and dignity instead of one fuelled on moralism, stereotypes and lies.


30 April 2006, Vancouver Canada

Drug Users go to Court in Canada to keep Safe Injection Site Open

Vancouver The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) will seek an injunction in BC Supreme Court to prevent the federal government from closing Insite, North Americas first safe injection site.

Scientific research in the worlds leading medical journals has established Insite as a success in reducing the harms associated with injection drug use in Canadas poorest neighbourhood. Despite widespread support however, the Conservative government has refused to confirm that they will renew the permit for the site, due to expire September 12, 2006.


An Insite worker  comments

"The case is a charter challenge

1.  an exemption 56 is not needed to have Insite operate
----staff does not handle drugs
----the exemption is fickle -at the will of the Minister of Health --can be given and withdrawn with no reason so if an exemption IS necessary the health department needs to lay out requirements ie why one would be granted and another denied
----other injection sites have not resulted in arrests or charges against those running them here

2.   a class of people are being denied their rights according to the Canadian Charter of rights Section 7     
  7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

3.  the use of addictive drugs heroin (and cocaine) is less damaging to an addict (who is a person with a diagnosable illness and is classed as a person with a disability) than the laws against these drugs The government making the possession of them criminal causes more damage to this "class of person" than the use of the substances.  
  15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."

INSITE IS BORN GIVING HOPE TO CANADA'S INTRAVENOUS DRUG USERS

On January 3, 2003, Health Canada made an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) so that intravenous drug users would be legally permitted to self-administer their drugs in a safe and controlled environment. Nine months later, the supervised injection site, known as InSite, located on Hastings Street East in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, was born.

InSite is a pilot program implemented by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the Portland Hotel Society. It is operated with the help of nurses, social and public health workers, and local volunteers.

At InSite, clients can show up to the supervised injection site with their drugs and receive sterile needles to inject them in a clean and safe environment. The problem is that users who can’t physically do the job alone can’t get any assistance with injecting. Their only option is to use needles they manage to scrounge up on the street, risking exposure to Hepatitis C, HIV, overdose, and poor injection technique. Without a further exemption allowing nurses to help those users who need help to inject their drugs, the site would be considered illegal under the CDSA for doing so.

The federal minister of health does have the power to get around this restriction if there are certain conditions that he thinks could reduce harm associated with injection drug use. These exemptions all have to be for scientific research purposes. For example, as outlined in the exemption noted in Section 56 of the Act, trafficking of drugs is not permitted at the site. “Trafficking” is a term not to be taken lightly. It can be defined in variety of ways, such as to sell, give, transfer, transport, send, or deliver the substance, to sell an authorization to obtain the substance, or most importantly, in this case, to administer a substance.

Allowable reasons for the minister to consider an exemption are whether a resulting project would help minimize the risk to health, safety, and security of research subjects, staff members, and local communities.

Helping clients who can’t help themselves could be a good enough reason for the minister to consider an exemption, but it hasn’t happened so far. Saving users from unnecessary wounds inflicted by bad injecting techniques shouldn’t be a crime.

But matters become complicated when nurses take the needles into their own hands and actually push the plunger for the clients. The idea of nurses injecting an unknown substance into a client’s body exposes the nurses to a huge liability that the clinic and the nurses would share.

A similar site has operated in the past in a less formal setting in Vancouver. In April 2003, a guerrilla site was organized at 327 Carrall Street in the Downtown Eastside by the Coalition for Harm Reduction. The unsanctioned supervised injection site was the precursor to InSite, now operating on East Hastings. The coalition at this site was made up of health care practitioners and several community-based groups who supported marginalized people in the Downtown Eastside.

They were responding to the municipal government’s failure to open a supervised injection site as was promised in 2002. The site was overseen by a registered nurse and volunteers who were trained in CPR, first aid, safer injecting technique, and dealing with conflict.

Over the 181-day period it was open, data was collected by Dr Thomas Kerr, Megan Oleson, and Dr Evan Wood. Oleson was the registered nurse on site. There were no rules that prohibited the sharing of drugs or assisting injections. The volunteers at the site supervised over 3,000 injections until the site was closed in October 2003 by the supervised injection site council. According to the report, they had little financial support or support from local health-care workers, and the volunteers were getting tired. By this time, InSite had opened and the majority of volunteers from the Carrall Street location were employed at InSite.

InSite now serves approxi-mately 600 clients a day, which is about half of the population of users in the Downtown Eastside. The site focuses on safe injection technique education, the treatment of wounds and abscesses, addiction counselling, withdrawal management, and opiate replacement therapy.

From September 2004 to August 2005, there were 197 treated overdoses among 116 clients at the supervised injection site. None of them resulted in death. Research on the site’s impact on the city and on issues surrounding health in the Downtown Eastside are being conducted with the help of the BC Centre For Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

In September 2005, a study on injection drug users in the Downtown Eastside was produced by Dr Wood and Dr Kerr. The researchers recruited intravenous drug users from the Downtown Eastside over six-month intervals to evaluate the relationship between intravenous drug users requiring help injecting and HIV infection. Participants were given an interviewer-administered questionnaire and were asked to provide blood samples. Results showed that users who needed help injecting were more likely to share needles with other users. When sharing the needles, the users were more likely to be exposed to HIV and Hepatitis C. Out of the 1,013 users who participated in the study, 41.3% needed help injecting during the time period of six months.

If almost half of the participants in this study needed help with injecting, it’s safe to say that a lot of users in the Downtown Eastside are not getting the proper aid that they require.

The solution to the problem is as simple as slightly changing the definition of the one elusive term: “trafficking.” But with such slight alterations come huge implications for the ethical and professional responsibilities of health care practitioners and political leaders, and their obligations to their professions, their constituencies, and to the downtown eastside population.

ARGENTINA: 23,000 PERSONS SUPPORTED THE DEPENALIZATION BILL IN THE BIGEST RELATED PUBLIC ACTS IN THE COUNTRY

Last Saturday aproximatelly 8,000 persons were involved in the fouth edition of MMM in Rosario city with a great festival with concerts and performance organized by the Argentinean Harm Reduction Association ARDA. The Festival was on the Municipal Open Anfiteathre with the bands Rosario Smowing, Urganos del Sur, Mobil Vision and Manos de Filipi.

On Sunday over 15,000 persons participated on the Buenos Aires edition of MMM with another open-air  festival on Palermo area. The concerts involved Intoxicados, Manos de Filipi, Resistencia Suburbana, Orge & Caro and Concha Man.

Main speakers on both festivals were the Executive Secretary of ARDA Gustavo Hurtado, Diputy Eduardo Garcia, author of the bill for depenalization and a representative of the argentinean Drug User Organization. The famous musician Andres Calamaro sent greetings in a very sensitive letter asking for "freedom, freedom and freedom" , as it is written in the national hymn and reminding that "from the skin to inside I am the owner of my body".

Also some people concentrated In Cordoba in park Las Heras and the bar 990.

MMM activities organized by ARDA are associated with the organization ´s National Depenalization Campaign and also claim for depenalization of personal use of all drugs -as the proposals of law on Diputies and Senators Camaras support-. The critical point is that the bills needs to be discussed in the Camaras and 2005 MMM with over 23,000 persons has claimed for that.

For more information or the Argentinean Harm Reduction Association ´s Bulletin with details and photos write to arda@fibertel.com.ar

 

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Drugs, Advocacy & Me

by Bijay Pandey of Recovering Nepal -2005

I am a drug user from Kathmandu, Nepal. I started using drugs when I was 18. Initially I was just doing marijuana and other local drugs like cough syrup, sleeping tablets etc later on I did heroin and other drugs. I was very attracted to drugs from that age.

Slowly I started having problems in my college, my grades were very poor in my class, started having fights inside the college. My parents then decided that I should go to India for further studies. It was the same case in India but I somehow managed to spend 4 years and finish my engineering degree. Afterwards I came to Nepal and things started getting worse. Nepal is no place for drug users. Here human rights are violated all the time and rights of drug users don’t exist at all. I started having troubles with my using and got arrested several times. The bottom line is I couldn’t survive. The society government started to treat me like a criminal and I decided to quit. I had hard time to quit and several times I failed.

Finally eight years back I was able to give up drugs for good. However after quitting drugs I had nothing to do. My job was gone and nobody wanted to hire me cause I am a drug user. For one year I was like a alien even in my hometown. I had no friends, my family didn’t trust me and I had nowhere to go and nothing to do.

I decided to work with the drug users; since I have been a drug user all my life and I thought I am capable of helping them and which in turn will help myself. I started working in rehabilitation center as a volunteer. I started getting my life together and found happiness in helping people like me.

I kept working with my drug using friends found my internal peace, I am able to hear what is really inside me, and that is unconditional love and help to the people like me this resulted in contentment and joy. Since I understood all I ever had to do was just listen to my heart and do what I love doing. I'm not afraid anymore either, because when something comes up, I don't run around screaming, "What do I do? What do I do?" but, instead, I just turn to my friends who were there for me and I was there for them.

From my previous explanation one can assume the situation of drug users is getting worse day by day. I along with some of my drug using friends decided to do something about it. We were all doing better comparing to those old days however thousands and thousands of other were suffering. They were ignored by the government, society and community. They never received a human value and living a life of drug user is like living a life of a parasite. Something must be done to upgrade their life style and living conditions. So we formed a loose network called Recovering Nepal. We did advocacy for the drug users and people living with HIV and AIDS. We held media campaigns and awareness programs. Finally small changes and glimmer of hopes beginning to appear. People started listening to us, newspapers and other electronic media started talking about us and most of all we all drug users are united to fight for the right of drug user.

We have not accomplished much but we are hoping that someday we will be there. Now we have a formal network of drug users in which more than one thousand drug users are affiliated. The government had finally acknowledged our existence and invited us in a Steering Committee of Harm Reduction, which is going to be implemented in couple of months. We are voicing for the policy change of drug user so that we will not be regarded as criminal or antisocial.

What we believe is that “every drug user has right to live and enjoy life and he or she should never be punished for using drugs”.

The Declaration of the International Network of people who use Illegal Drugs in German

Wir brauchen ein internationales Netzwerk Drogen gebrauchender Aktivist(inn)en!


Wir sind Menschen aus der ganzen Welt, die Drogen gebrauchen. Wir sind Menschen, die man ausgrenzt und diskriminiert, ins Gefängnis steckt, als „böse“, „gefährlich“ und „nutzlos“ bezeichnet und tötet. Es ist höchste Zeit, dass wir als Bürger/innen unsere Stimme erheben, unsere Rechte einfordern, unsere Belange selbst vertreten und unsere Selbstbestimmung und Autonomie erstreiten. Worum es uns gehen muss:

  • Befähigung und Stärkung der Konsument(inn)en legaler und illegalisierter Drogen weltweit, damit wir überleben, als Menschen wahrgenommen und gehört werden und uns in alle Entscheidungen einbringen, die unser Leben betreffen

  • Förderung des Verständnisses für unsere Erfahrungen und Lebensumstände; zu verdeutlichen sind insbesondere die schädlichen Auswirkungen der gegenwärtigen Drogenpolitik auf Drogenkonsument(inn)en wie auch Nichtkonsument(inn)en, wie sie auf örtlicher, nationaler, weltregionaler und internationaler Ebene zu beobachten sind

  • Nutzung unserer eigenen Fähigkeiten und Kenntnisse für die Aufklärung und Fortbildung anderer Menschen, vor allem unserer Peers und all derjenigen Mitbürger/innen, die das Thema Drogen betrifft

  • Zugang zu bzw. Schaffung von Angeboten der Schadensminderung, dazu gehören Drogentherapien, angemessene medizinische Versorgung, legaler Zugang zu verschreibungspflichtigen Medikamenten (Originalstoffen), Vergabe von Konsumzubehör für Safer Use (einschließlich Spritzen und Nadeln) und Möglichkeiten der Entsorgung, Programme aufsuchender Peer-Arbeit, objektive Informationen über Drogen und deren Gebrauch, Drogenkonsumräume

  • Anerkennung unseres Rechts auf evidenzbasierte, objektive Informationen über Drogen und über Schutzmaßnahmen hinsichtlich der möglichen negativen Folgen des Drogengebrauchs durch Schaffung eines gleichberechtigten Zugangs zu umfassender gesundheitlicher und sozialer Versorgung, zu angemessenem und bezahlbarem Wohnraum und zu Arbeits- und Beschäftigungsmöglichkeiten

  • Unterstützung der bestehenden örtlichen, nationalen, weltregionalen und internationalen Netzwerke und Organisationen von Menschen mit HIV/Aids und/oder Hepatitis sowie anderer im Bereich Schadensminderung tätiger Gruppen; dabei ist sicherzustellen, dass aktive Drogengebraucher/innen auf allen Entscheidungsebenen einbezogen werden, in den Vorständen vertreten sind und für ihre Ausgaben, die aufgewendete Zeit und die eingebrachte Kompetenz angemessen entschädigt werden

  • Anfechtung der nationalen Gesetzgebung und der Regelungen internationaler Konventionen, durch die den meisten von uns ein sicheres und gesundes Leben verwehrt wird.

Uns ist bewusst, welche Herausforderungen mit der Schaffung eines internationalen Netzwerks verbunden sind. Umso mehr sind wir gefordert,

  • Vielfalt zu respektieren und wertzuschätzen, indem wir je unterschiedliche Lebengeschichten und -bedingungen, Kenntnisse, Fähigkeiten und Fertigkeiten anerkennen und das Netzwerk zu einem geschützten Raum machen – egal, welche Drogen die Einzelnen gebrauchen und wie sie diese gebrauchen

  • über unsere Arbeit zu informieren, um Drogengebraucher/innen überall dort, wo es noch keine User-Organisationen gibt, zum Aufbau solcher Organisationen zu ermutigen und dabei zu unterstützen

  • Toleranz und Zusammenarbeit zu fördern, indem wir eine Kultur der Einbeziehung und aktiven Beteiligung pflegen

  • nach demokratischen Prinzipien zu handeln und Strukturen zu schaffen, die ein Maximum an Beteiligung an Entscheidungsprozessen ermöglichen – mit Blick vor allem auf diejenigen, die aufgrund ihrer geschlechtlichen Identität oder sexuellen Orientierung, ihres sozioökonomischen Status, ihrer Religion usw. besonders gefährdet sind, unterdrückt zu werden

  • zu verhindern, dass Drogen gebrauchende Menschen inhaftiert werden; zugleich müssen wir uns dafür einsetzen, dass man bereits Inhaftierten das Recht auf Haftbedingungen zugesteht, die ihrer Gesundheit nicht schaden, ebenso das Recht auf Behandlung (einschließlich Drogentherapie), Zugang zu Mitteln der Schadensminderung (z. B. Spritzen und Nadeln, Kondome) und zu medizinischer Versorgung (sie sollte wenigstens der in Freiheit verfügbaren entsprechen)

  • weltweit gegen Hinrichtungen von Drogen gebrauchenden Menschen und andere gegen sie gerichtete inhumane Maßnahmen zu protestieren.

Die Notwendigkeit, ein internationales Netzwerk zu schaffen, ist umso dringlicher aufgrund der Tatsache, dass unterdrückten Bevölkerungsgruppen immer nur dann Gleichberechtung zugestanden wurde, wenn sie sich selbst dafür eingesetzt haben. Gemeinsam wollen wir deshalb dafür kämpfen, dass die auf lokaler, nationaler und internationaler Ebene bestehenden Drogengesetze und -Regelungen geändert werden, und dass eine von Moralismus, Stereotypisierung und Lügen gespeiste Drogenpolitik durch eine evidenzbasierte Drogenpolitik ersetzt wird, die die Menschenrechte und Menschenwürde respektiert


Der Internationales Drogen Gebrauchender Aktivist(inn)en

30 April 2006, Vancouver Canada


The Declaration of the International Network of drug-users (in Macedonian.)

Zoto na svetot mu treba me|unarodna mre`a od aktivisti koi koristat droga

Nie sme lu|e od cel svet koi koristat droga. Nie sme lu|e koi bile marginalizirani, diskriminirani, sme bile ubivani, bez potreba povreduvani, zatvorani, pretstavuvani kako zli, i stereotipizirani kako opasni i lu|e bez koi se mo`e. Sega e vreme da go kreneme svojot glas kako gra|ani, da gi vospostavime na{ite prava i da go vratime pravoto da bideme sopstveni portparoli i da se borime za samoopolnomo{tuvawe:

Da im se ovozmo`i na lu|eto vo svetot koi koristat drogi, dozvoleni ili nedozvoleni od zakonot, da pre`iveat, uspeat vo `ivotot i da se slu{nat na{ite glasovi kako ~ove~ki su{testva za da imame zna~aen udel vo site odluki koi se odnesuvaat na na{iot `ivot.

Da se ovozmo`i podobro razbirawe na lu|eto koi koristat nezakonski drogi, a osobeno na destruktivnosta na sega{nite politiki koi vlijaat vrz korisnicite na drogi, kako i vrz nivnite sogra|ani koi ne gi koristat: ova e va`en element vo razvojot na vakvite socijalni politiki na lokalno, nacionalno, regionalno i me|unarodno nivo.

Da gi upotrebime sopstvenite ve{tini i znaewe za da podu~ime drugi, osobeno na{ite bliski i prijateli i site drugi sogra|ani koi se zagri`eni vo vrska so drogata vo na{ite zaednici.

Da barame op{t pristap do site dostapni vidovi pomo{ koi mo`at da ja namalat {tetata so koja vo sekojdnevniot `ivot se soo~uvaat lu|eto koi koristat drogi, kako 1) le~ewe od zavisnosta, soodvetna lekarska pomo{ za tie lica koi aktivno koristat drogi; 2) reguliran pristap do kvalitetni lekarstva koi ni se potrebni; 3) dostapnost na pobezbedna oprema za koristewe, kako {pricovi i creva kako i 4) uslovi za nivno bezbedno otstranuvawe; 5) pomo{ me|u prijatelite i otvoreno informirawe za drogite i se vo vrska so nivnata upotreba; 6) uslovi za bezbedna konzumacija koi se potrebni na mnogu od nas.

Da go vospostavime na{eto pravo na objektivno informirawe za drogite, potkrepeno so dokazi, i za toa kako da se za{titime od potencijalnite negativni posledici od koristeweto drogi, preku op{t pristap do ramnopravni i temelni zdravstveni i socijalni uslugi, bezbedno, ne preskapo smestuvawe vo okolina koja n# prifa}a i priliki za vrabotuvawe.


Da obezbedime poddr{ka na postoe~kite lokalni, nacionalni, regionalni i me|unarodni mre`i na lu|e koi `iveat so HIV/SIDA, hepatitis i drugi sli~ni grupi za pomo{, za aktivnite korisnici na droga da bidat vklu~eni na site nivoa od donesuvaweto odluki, a osobeno da mo`eme da slu`ime kako ~lenovi na odborite (upravni) na takvite organizacii i da dobivame soodveten nadomestok za na{ite tro{oci, vreme i znaewe.

Da gi predizvikame nacionalnoto zakonodavstvo i me|unarodnite konvencii koi se u{te n# spre~uvaat da `iveeme bezbeden i zdrav `ivot.

Svesni za potencijalnite predizvici od formiraweto takva mre`a, nie:

Ja cenime i po~ituvame socijalnata raznolikost i gi priznavame razlikite vo potekloto, znaeweto i sposobnostite, i kultivirame bezbedno opkru`uvawe polno so poddr{ka vo ramkite na mre`ata bez ogled na vidot na drogata i na~inot na nejzina upotreba;

[irime informacii za na{ata rabota za da go pomogneme razvojot na korisni~ki organizacii vo zaednici/zemji vo koi nema takvi organizacii;

Se zalagame za tolerancija i sorabotka, neguvawe na kulturata na prifa}awe i aktivno u~estvo;

Maksimalno vklu~uvawe so osoben naglasok vrz onie koi se nesrazmerno ranlivi kako meta na diskriminacija vrz osnova na nivniot pol, seksualna opredelba, op{testveno-ekonomskata polo`ba, religija itn.;

Se borime protiv pogubuvaweto i drugi ne~ove~ki postapki so lu|eto koi koristat droga vo svetot.

Vo krajna linija, najdlabokata potreba od vakva mre`a poteknuva od faktot deka niedna grupa lu|e vrz koi se vr{ela represija ne uspeale da se oslobodat bez u~estvo na samite zasegnati od taa represija. Preku zaedni~ko deluvawe, }e se borime za promena na sega{nite lokalni, regionalni i me|unarodni zakoni vo vrska so drogite i za formulacija na politika vrz osnova na dokazi, koja }e gi po~ituva ~ovekovite prava i dostoinstvo mesto politika zasnovana vrz moralizam, stereotipi i lagi.

Me|unarodni aktivisti-korisnici na drogi
30 april 2006, Vankuver, Kanada

STATEMENT OF NGO JOHN MORDAUNT TRUST TO THE 2006 COMMISSION ON NARCOTIC DRUGS, VIENNA

Good morning and thank you for giving us time to address you here today. My name is Andria, and I run an organisation in the UK, which supports drugs users affected by HIV and/or Hepatitis. We are also concerned with exposing violations of human rights against this peer group. While we understand that this CND is focused on issues of alternative development, at the JMT, we feel it is never time to take our eyes off the Blood Borne Disease (BBD) prevention and care issue as it affects so many ex/current Injection drug-users (IDUs).

The so-called 'war on drugs' detrimentally affects us in many ways. First of all, a basic civil right is infringed as we are persecuted for using certain arbitrarily-decreed illegal drugs. As a result of this criminalisation, it becomes difficult to prioritize our health needs. Even where this is not the case, repressive drug policies all over the world have been so focused on getting us off drugs that more urgent issues have been overlooked. The most obvious of these is the primary prevention of BBDs. Needle-exchange research from all over the world has proved their efficacy in reducing the spread of AIDS, for example. As one of our doctors puts it, There can never be any complacency over AIDS prevention work.Several nation states still deprive injectors of access to clean needles on the grounds that they encourage people to inject drugs! In decades of doing this work, we have found no evidence for this fear being valid in reality at all, but instead we are witnesses to the rapid spread of BBDs, which have killed many thousands of injectors and their loved ones. This inappropriate social policy also places enormous financial burdens on public health services in so many countries. In a harm reduction model of public health, we make our priorities the reduction of the harsher affects of drug use, i.e. overdose-deaths, fatal blood borne diseases and acquisitive crime - minimising harms particularly for those who's drugs-use is out of control. We must also realize that for many true recovery is sadly a pipe dream, therefore we are grateful that at least the World Health Organisation (WHO) has now placed methadone on the essential list of medicines.

Another serious concern we have is that illegal drugs are often so expensive that some chemically dependent people resort to acquisitive crime to fund their habits. This is not because they are naturally evil or sociopathic. It's because the criminalisation that comes to bear on our lives pushes us into the periphery of society where there are very few alternatives. People known to be using illegal drugs are hardly likely to be the first choice for most employers, unless they are privileged in some other social or economic ways. Thus, we can be discriminated against in employment also.

The desire for a drug-free world will remain just that - a desire; something we may wish for, but never have. Saying that does not mean we are capitulating or buying into a feeling of defeatism. It's simply about facing facts. Very few drug-free societies exist; moreover, would we all be happy if alcohol was also on a total ban across the whole world? So as an ex-IDU affected by HIV, I appeal to you all to reconsider our current global drug policies, and if I may be as bold as to ask that you also learn about the problem from those that have been through it.


Before I end, I want to say this. We are certainly not asking you to condone any drug use, legal or not: we are simply noting that our current international drug policies are not working for the good of a huge part of humanity; indeed some view them as an unmitigated immoral disaster as they've also corrupted huge swathes of our law enforcement services & placed thousands of peasant farmers in poverty; therefore we would ask you to be open to a more thorough science & human rights-based debate on the issue.

THANK YOU for listening.

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In December '05, the Thai Drug Users' Network (TDN)issued this Press Release:

" TDUN Deplores State-Sponsored Human Rights Violations, Demands an End to the War
on Drugs and Punitive Treatment of Drug Users, and Calls for a Public Health
and Human Rights Approach to HIV/AIDS and Drug Problems


The Thai Drug Users' Network (TDN)
held a 3rd-year anniversary celebration to which over 100 family members and
friends were invited. "I
am really excited to be here. I lost many friends and I miss them. I wanted
to honor their memories by being here" said one TDUN member.
The friendly and energetic environment was buoyed by a common sense of
purpose and shared dream. The Network began by describing the principles
underlying its work. Following was a memorial ceremony in
honor of drug users who died of civil rights violations or government drug
policies. "I think everyone uses or is addicted to something, similar to me.
Some people drink alcohol or are alcoholics, and actually alcohol can have a
negative effect on our health, even worse than many drugs, so
why are some drugs legal and other drugs not? I don't know who decided that the
things that we use should be illegal, or why. Often it's the illegality that
causes bad things to happen to us," said Mr. Atikhom, TDN's Coordinator.

Thailand receives international accolades for its "Best Practice" in
fighting HIV/AIDS, despite unaddressed surging epidemics among highly
vulnerable groups like injecting drug users (IDU), who have suffered a 50%
prevalence rate since the late 1980s. Rates of new infections among IDU are
not decreasing, and risk of HIV infection has increased as a direct result
of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's anti-drug campaign, which also dramatically
ratchets down the country's human rights record.

"I saw how dirty politicians got when they started to use the drug problem
for their own political benefit and popularity, instead of considering the
effect on people's lives, and I for one don't believe that drugs will ever be eradicated
from this world," said Ms. Pisamai, a TDN member.

A new, Thai-language version of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) document,
"THAILAND - Not Enough Graves: the War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS and Violations of
Human Rights" was distributed to event goers. The report documents a range
of human rights abuses inflicted against people allegedly involved with
drugs.

TDN highlighted these
findings while denouncing government apathy in the face of facts.
"The Thai
government opposes low-cost measures, such as needle exchange, that would
prevent HIV among heroin injectors.
It subjects drug users to mass arrest and incarceration, placing them, their
sex partners, and their communities at high risk of HIV infection.
Thailand's "war on drugs," marked by state-sponsored violence and
repression, has instead proven to be a war on effective efforts to eradicate
HIV/AIDS."

International agencies such as the World Health Organization
(WHO) have affirmed the effectiveness of "harm reduction" and recommend it
as a critical response to HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users.

It is a standard approach in many countries. Global evidence confirms that
such approaches do not result in increased drug use but rather lead to
increased voluntary uptake of drug dependence treatment and other services.
However, despite proclamations by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra at the
International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Bangkok (July 2004) that the
government would work with the Thai Drug Users' Network to ensure harm
reduction measures would be implemented as a matter of policy, today, one
year and a half after the IAC, PM Thaksin continues to announce new rounds
of the government's war on drugs and not a single harm reduction policy has
been officially introduced. "Actually, we're still treated as criminals, and not as "patients" as the new law states. The approaches are still punishment-oriented and not therapeutic. Methadone, a critical drug substitution therapy, is not covered under the
national health care scheme," said Mr. Samaan, a TDN board member.

"One proven way to improve the response to HIV/AIDS among our community is
strengthening the capacity of drug users to be actively involved in the
development of programs and policies that affect us. Respecting our value,
dignity and humanity as well as our ability to contribute to solving the
drug and HIV problem is important in order for us to succeed," added Mr.
Seree Jintakanon, TDN's Chairman, at an afternoon seminar on "Law, Policy
and Human Rights of Drug Users." Guest speakers included a UNAIDS
representative, human rights lawyers and academics. The event continued into
the evening with food, music, laughter and celebration - an atmosphere, many
noted, rarely enjoyed in public by open drug users in Thailand.

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July 2005

Letter from AIDS Activist of European AIDS Treatment Group

In November 2003, a small group of people living with AIDS, drug users,
women and gay men met with the Director General of the World Health
Organization Dr. Jong Wook-Lee and the new head of the HIV/AIDS
Department, Dr. Jim Kim. This was the first meeting in the history of the epidemic
between a Director General and a delegation of PLWHAs from around the
world.

One of the priorities for the activists at that meeting was the
inclusion of methadone on the WHO's Model List of Essential Medicines, since this
drug is life saving for those struggling with addiction and is a key adjunctive
therapy with antiretroviral treatment for drug users. Right after the
meeting a follow up letter urged WHO to "consider the inclusion of
methadone hydrochloride into the List of Essential Drugs as part of the AIDS kit
that will be crucial for making antiretroviral therapy (ARV) treatment
available for the majority of HIV-positive people in Asia and Central and Eastern
European countries" (the letter is attached for easy reference)

It is my pleasure to inform you that methadone (and buprenorphine as a
medicine with a similar clinical performance within a pharmacological
class) are on the WHO Model (Complementary) List of Essential Medicines!
Yesterday the report was finally approved and in several days the report of the
WHO Expert Committee and WHO Model List of Essential Medicines will be in
the public domain.

"Complementary" list is used for medicines when specialized diagnostic
or monitoring facilities and/or specialist medical care and/or specialist
training are needed. Another achievement is the introduction of a new
section in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, namely -
Medicines used for substance dependence (programmes). This is an opening for
other medicines used for treatment of substance dependence, including
alcohol.

In November 2003, Dr. Kim said he would push to get methadone on the
Essential Drug list. It took 18 months to do it, but he fulfilled his
promise.

Mauro Guarinieri

Chair, Board of Directors, Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP

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Some Observations - AFGHANISTAN - KABUL

Hundreds of thoughts, memories and insights are flooding my consciousness about my week in Afghanistan, mainly Kabul. While the few bacteria settle down in my gut and bloodstream, let me try and articulate some of this to you all around the world.

First of all, I want to address the gender-sex-’equality’ issue, as it is the one that I assume will bother some Westerners and/or be of profound interest to others. On the penultimate day of my stay in Kabul, my incredibly patient host Ahmed W took me to his Father-In-Laws home, where his wife seemingly spends most of her time with other women. Ladies in Afghanistan rarely go out alone - very rarely. His wife is many months pregnant and this was a special week in this household as two of the young men had been wed. Wedding celebrations do not begin and end on one day in this ‘less-developed’ country. They go on for several days: this tribe knows how to party. I was taken into a room full of men and boys (14-63yrs old approx). As guest of honour - visiting scholar if you will, from U.K, I had privileged access to this room. No other women were there. (I am still wondering whether Ahmed had a semi-conscious motive to use my drug policy and other policy and social justice ideas to influence his huge family; time will tell.) Within minutes, I was given the floor to address “why the U.S bombs our country for so long?” and the role of Opium in the economic, agricultural and peace & war brew that is this country’s predicament

Some of you know me as Andria, the enraged widow who will never let go of the lingering visual memory of a dying junky-husband with AIDS; a woman who makes sure other IDUS will always have access to clean needles and G.O.D…Good Orderly Direction, also know as Harm Reduction .

Few of you (including me!) will know that I am slowly getting educated around global drug policy issues.

To the question, why does the U.S. bomb our country? I could only respond, “very good question.” Then I began rapidly connecting the dots between Afghanistan as producer of over 90% of the world’s heroin ultimately – 86% of the U.K’s apparently. I said that the profiteering of Afghan war-lords, narco-traffickers, the corruption of Afghan politicians, law enforcement officers and other officials only gave more excuses to the U.S./U.K to pursue the Opium-eradication policies, which have been endemic for a long time. The truth is that the world does indeed need a lot of pain control: people living with chronic and or intractable and/or terminal pain should have access to Opium, Heroin, Morphine and any other necessary opioid pain-killer in order to live in some comfort. The fact that a small minority of human beings had found themselves dependent upon these substances, and thus caught in the criminal trap was not an excuse to punish nations who produced coca and/or opium and/or cannabis products. The lies that uphold the global prohibitive drug system are enormous. They seemed to like that a lotJ. The patriarch of the large group raised his hand to attract the interpreter’s - medical doctor’s – attention, and said, “I want to learn how to cultivate and grow opium!” Everybody laughed, or smiled impishly.

I continued, “but one thing I am concerned about in your great country Sirs, if you don’t mind me saying so is this. Why are the women not allowed to go out alone? If I lived here, which I would like to, I think I might go insane if I had to stay at home all the time with or without the children.” The physician responded. “Actually the women are allowed to go out together, in twos and threes.” That didn’t really answer my question but at least I was reassured that I would be at liberty to go out with others.

Ahmed made it obvious that I had been single for too long and two appropriate (single men) were pointed out for me to choose! Neither of them spoke any English and I don't speak Dari so.. The cop I met later, who eradicates opium and smokes hashish insisted we get together. I said, through the interpreter, "only if you stop eradicating opium! It's a silly policy and doesn't seem to be helping anybody."

Rapidly I was then brought to the women’s party room. Women and girls, I was delighted. Instead of the sober though passionate debates that ensued in the 99%-male lunchroom, here was a sardines-packed room, full of females from babyhood to 70ish. A few of the younger ones banged drums, many sang and/or chanted. Everybody smiled through the sweat and heat and joy of the wedding celebrations. Two women danced alluringly in the middle of the room and of course, I could not resist. I was on my feet, surrounded by ecstatic Afghan women, dancing, trying to entertain these, the private property of men, a wondrous creature. They are the producers of the family, the nurturers, the clothes washers, the love-makers to tired (or not) men at the end of the day and they surely make-love a lot as each family has four children (as a low average.) I swayed my voluptuous body and twisted my arms and hands in that way I had seen gorgeous Indian women do in the Indian dancers café in Dubai only six days before. Nobody threw money but many women giggled. One even filmed this ‘event’ – in their lives; a Western female-stranger dancing for them, uninhibitedly. Women are not allowed to have photos taken of themselves at all normally.

Many embraces and grins later, I was with the Physician interpreter again, exclaiming, “Hey, your women are wild here. I had a fabulous time with them just now!”

“Yes” he emphatically responded, “Why in America, they fight for women’s rights?” In a rushed moment – he was running off to work at his private clinic - I replied, “Yes I wonder why…” and since then I have thought a lot.

The deal for us Gals in this “Islamic Republic” is that we serve the boys, girls and men till death do us part. We tolerate our husbands having several wives on occasions, we get used to remaining in the home engaged busily with domestic chores shared with the other women and we are grateful when our husbands finally return home in the evenings and make love to us tenderly or not.

And I also noted the very childlike and naïve process that the males are also engaged in. They too must accept centuries of tradition that enable them to have this ‘privileged position.’ They are undoubtedly dependent on the women and girls in a way that was indicated by each morning’s ritual, when Tanamor, a ten yr old girl would bring breakfast to Ahmed and me in a darkened room (there were afternoon powercuts everyday in Kabul) and not think twice about the fact that she was never assisted. When I was leaving, I gave her Silver ring as a thank-you gift, but she kept refusing to accept it, not understanding why I was giving it to her: I don’t speak Pashtoun/Farsi and she cannot speak English. In the end, I shoved the ring on her small young thumb and kissed her foreheadrepreatedly saying "tashakor, tashakor" thank you in the local dialect. She finally understood something… I hope.

This is a land I will return to. This is a land I felt necessary in. This is a land where the children love their elders, not because they are older but because they understand the critical roles that are clearly demarcated: my Dad goes to work and brings the Baksheesh back to us in food, clothes, home and safety. My Mum stays busy making sure the unseen and often-unappreciated essentials are done: well and on time.

Finally, this is the ONLY land where a doctor working with drug dependency issues told me clearly, his centre is my home. I can go there anytime. As an ex-injection drug user and AIDS widow, and one who believes, after 10yrs in grief, it is time to move on - I think it is time I said YES! To that kind of suggestion

Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt MSc

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On 21 April 2005, 'addicts,' people living with AIDS, other drug users, MEPs and other European Authority diplomats met in the European Parliament to discuss the inclusion of civil society in drug policy debate and drug policy generally. Here is a short report by Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt MSc

It was an interesting and extraordinary scene to have the dreadlocked guys around the suits in an otherwise 'diplomatic session.' NGO delegates, mostly organisational or individual members of ENCOD came to take part in a drug policy hearing initiated by ENCOD, a major part of whose remit was to remind the EU, as a democratic institution, that it has a responsibility to consult with Civil Society when designing drug policy. It was even more heartening to hear Olivier Hartman of an Illicit drug user union in Belgium acknowledge, along with the panelists, that we do indeed have to help kids not get in a mess with drugs for as citizens, we have both collective as well as individual responsibilities.

We had our man behind the camera, Thorri Johanssen and then there were NGO delegates and ENCOD members from Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and the U.K. Other NGO delegates included Pien Metal of the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Marco Perduca of the International Prohibitionist League(IAL), both of whom were speakers along with ENCODs coordinator, Joep Oomen. Mr Barra of the International Redcross Federation, who is an ally of harm reduction, also spoke passionately about stigma kills more people than the drugs themselves; he also addressed the AIDS plenary in Vienna at the annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs last month advocating strongly for NEPs as well as maintenance substitution therapies. I liked him..it transpired that he had worked with drug users for 3O yrs.

Franco Frattini, an Italian European Commissioner of Justice and Home Affairs informed the gathering that the parliament was "homing in on this issue due to citizens interest." Bob Keizer of the Pompidou Group, Council of Europe went as far as to say that many useless prevention interventions were still being applied, adding that ethics and human rights must be brought into the equation when designing drug policy for Europe. He stipulated two other observations; 1) that all of the functions of drug policy must be implemented and 2) by different organisations with a recognition of these different organisations roles in regard to the EU action plan, which will be ratified in June. He noted regretfully that the WHO as well as the Pompidou group had not been mentioned in this plan which was a serious oversight and "missed opportunity."

Paul Griffiths of the EMCDDA, spoke of the seriousness of the HCV pandemic amongst IDUs and that this had implications for the health budgets of EU member states. Later, Mr Barra referred to some of the harsher behaviour-therapy therapeutic comunities as having led to the deaths of some IDUs and implored the assembled MEPs gathered not to use the issue of drug dependency as a political football. Mr Keizer made it clear that there must be a more open debate and the Pompidou group were willing to collaborate on a report into the effectiveness (or not) of our current drug policies. By the time it came for Oomen to speak on behalf of the ever-growing ENCOD network, we were all well aware that at least 80% of the assembled throng were allies if not advocates of non-criminalising drug policies.

Joep Oomen began his speech by noting that the 2000-2004 report of the EMCDDA left serious doubts on the likelihood of achieving the goals of reduced drug use, blood borne diseases (BBDs) and crime at this point. He reminded us that many of the most effective harm reduction strategies had been initiated by drug-using citizens and their carers and that 'they were the true architects of new drug policies.' He asked us all to consider how/if prohibitive drug policy worked, when, for example, in Bulgaria, one can got o jail for 15 yrs for possession of less than a gramme of any illicit drug.. a little later Dr Frederick Polak asked what the official reasons for not re-evaluating drug policy given that five out of six of the major indicators had failed.

During the discussion, Massimo Barra noted the schizophrenic response of the UN bodies where UNODC are railroaded mostly by U.S drug warrior crusadors to maintain repressive policies, while at the same time UNAIDS is saying that NEPs are an important component of drug treatment. The Mayor of Maastricht said, "I am not asking for a complete liberalisation of the drug laws but proper regulation at regional levels and under strict quantities re supply which would eventually lead to the elimination of illegal supplies." He added that many other Mayors agreed with him, but were afraid to say so publically.

Ms Metaal asked "if alternative development in Latin America is working as the UNODC report, why is that peasant coca growers are throwing stones at the police, who tell them we are only obeying orders of our superiors." Franco Corleone, of Forum Droghe, in his endearing empassioned way noted that the UNODC counts of on verbal moral manipulations ad infinitum, acknowledging that of the entire Italian prison population, 39% are drug "offenders." He stated emphaticallly that law should not be confused with morality and that individual nation states should be allowed to decide their own local/national policies.

Towards the end Marco Perduca asked us to consider that there are various ways in which the UN drug conventions are illegal in that they abuse cultural and religious rights. During question time, PWA, Luiz Mendao of the European AIDS Treatment Group, said that it is essential that the the European Commission do not ignore the results and recommendations of the European Parliament´s Catania Report..

Carel Edwards, head of the anti-drug coordinating unit of the European Commission stipulated that Civil Society had overlooked building consensus at the nation state level and was "punching above" their weight. He said that we cannot demand supply reduction at the expense of demand reduction; we have to tread carefully so that the Plan does not end up in the bin ultimately..As for the involvement of civil society, he acknowledged that it was time we were adequately included and that we would be included in the future. He also instructed that we spend some efforts educating the Council of Europe.

Finally it was the turn of the namesake of this report: Giusto Catania. He asked us to consider that there appears to be a democratic rift between the Council and the Commission on a European level but that we should be hopeful that a scientific approach to drug policy is, at least, now being promoted. He recommended that Europe take a more community approach to drugs, with the net effect of improving relationships between us all groups and members of civil society.

As Carel Edwards left the stage, ENCOD member, Christine Kluge, presented a peace-pipe to him, signed by various celebrities, saying "we present this to you with our sincere hope that we can work together to end the ´war on drugs.´ Somewhat befuddled, Mr Edwards answered that he did not believe that there was any kind of drug war going on between us and him but asked us to consider less political lobbying of the EU bodies but that what they really needed was more information and data supporting the legislation we wish they would pursue. Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt took this straight to heart and ran up the aisles demanding Beckley Foundation docments from Mr. Trace, but when she returned to present them to Carel, he said he said he had already seen them. Some other European drug policy reform obssessive had got there first!

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Profile: Joycelyn Woods of the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates

UV decided to begin profiling some of our long-term activists, and since few are women, we began with one of our greatest! “I came to advocacy for the reason that I believe many methadone advocates do. Methadone patients are never given the opportunity to feel good about themselves,” says Joycelyn Woods, “generally what they read about themselves is very negative.”

I started this journey by accident when I was told about a meeting at Rockefeller University. Most of those attending the meeting were methadone patients and then, the small community-newspapers in New York City were anti-methadone. This meeting would grow into one of the first methadone advocacy organizations The Committee of Concerned Methadone Patients (CCMP). I would say that I had a real epiphany at these meetings because I realized that I could seize opportunities that I had not thought I had. I made the decision to go back to school and get a graduate degree and even went into neuroscience “because I came to believe that I had the right to live and work where I wanted to and that I had the support to back it up.”

A group of us worked hard for CCMP, who were very much involved with the NYC Transit Authority Case in which several methadone patients were fired for taking methadone. Another was the Harlem Medication Case over an inferior methadone formula that was being used in one of the clinics. CCMP got a court order to stop it. And we registered methadone patients to vote and visited newspapers to provide positive articles about it, and talked to politicians and policy makers. This was during the 1970s when everyone was “doing their thing” so we thought we should have that right also.

By 1988 with the AIDS epidemic growing in New York City and very little being done on the behalf of users, it was decided that it was time for another advocacy organization. This was how the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates - NAMA came into being. It was patterned after the growing mental health advocacy movement and their organization the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill or NAMI. We are now in our seventeenth year. NAMA has survived on a budget of about $130,000, for entire seventeen years. But money is only important when that is what you want and we at NAMA don’t want money – we want civil rights and respect. During the first few years NAMA was New York based and only a small group. However as word got out NAMA was contacted from other states and similar groups were started. As methadone expanded in other countries NAMA was looked to for guidance and the result was an affiliation of fourteen international groups. Today there are close to 50 groups that are considered part of the NAMA network and while each may have their own separate mission they must follow the goals of NAMA.

I would say that the greatest accomplishment of NAMA was when patients were included in policy making. Prior to NAMA methadone patients were never asked about their issues. Today a number of our chapters meet with their state methadone authority and have been involved with drafting state regulations. I helped with the national regulations and insisted that patients be able to have 30 day take home privileges and that each clinic should have a mechanism for patient to be involved in clinic policy.

NAMA has also been involved in ending some treatment malpractices that were common in the US. In 1992 D'Aunno and Vaughn published a study in JAMA on methadone treatment practices. They found that one-third of the programs they surveyed did not tell patients what dose they were on. The practice called “Blind Dosing” was done to disguise low dosing. Today no clinics blind dose patients and most professionals would not even consider defending it. Around the same time another survey found that the average dose was about 37 mgs/day, which is far from adequate. What had happened over the years as rural programs opened they hired staff from “drug free” treatment who believed that less was better. This has now been reversed and the average dose in the US has increased to almost 60 mgs/day.

Some issues remain the same and the criminal justice system has always been backward when it comes to methadone. Many jails do not provide methadone if a patient is arrested and there have been a number of deaths because of this. It is not uncommon for Parole Officers to make, getting off of methadone, part of the probation or parole. If you don’t, they will put you back in jail. We would not allow this to happen to animals but users have been so stigmatized that this is not even viewed as inhumane treatment. It is actually worse because it is depraved indifference over the welfare of another.

And now with thirty day take homes the clinics have created a procedure called “Call Backs”. This means that at any time the clinic can call you and within 24 hours you must report to the clinic to bring in your bottles, both empty and full for them to count. And you have to have taken your dose on the day that it was prescribed or some clinics will revoke your take home privileges if you have taken your medication not on the day prescribed.

As I see it there will always be a lot of work for advocates because just when you think you have stopped the program from doing horrible things to patients they devise some new torture.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Financial gain from Drug Users pain?

A few pharmaceutical companies are set to reap huge rewards from treatments and tests for hepatitis C. Grant McNally, from the UK Assembly on Hepatitis C looks at the fact that despite their still being no clear cure, this is not holding back phenomenal profit margins.

It is 15 years since the US biotech company Chiron Corp first identified the HCV virus, and engaged in certain dubious practices in an attempt to wholly own it and any spin off. In that time the virus has went through a metamorphosis, from a being believed to be a benign infection that was thought to have little consequence for long term health, to the serious global health concern it is now known as today. For their efforts Chiron Corp have benefited to the tune of a hundred million dollars or so in patent royalties payments (as I said , they even tried to patent the virus itself!).

The John Mordaunt Trust and a little history of the international User Activist movement.

The John Mordaunt Trust (JMT) was set up in 1996 to honour the memory of a much loved and influential AIDS/drugs human rights activist. He was the first known drug user to address the World AIDS Conference plenary (Berlin 1993). Throughout Europe, particularly the U.K, John assisted AIDS Service Organisations to establish IDU-specific care within their projects and would often use the media to promote harm reduction programs for users who had lost control of their lives.

Harm Reduction is simply a drug policy paradigm whose primary concern is to reduce the greatest harms of daily use, i.e. overdose, blood borne diseases (BBDs) and crime, including violence related to drug-deals gone wrong.. If people choose to come off drugs, of course this is great, but history has shown us that many (dependent) users do not come off, therefore we must take responsibility to minimize the greatest harms to ALL those most directly affected including surrounding communities. Harm Reduction strategies are essential within current drug policy, as by definition users cannot and do not know the quality (therefore dose) of the drugs they are buying. At least with pharmaceutical drugs, (methadone being the most commonly prescribed therapy), clean needles and tested pills, drug users can protect themselves from death, disease and poisoning. Neither would they feel compelled to commit crimes in order to afford the inflated price of illicit drugs.

Some people have assumed that harm reductionists are naturally legalisers too. This is not true, though John unashamedly was. World AIDS Day 1990, Deutsche AIDS Hilfe’s (http://www.aidshilfe.de/) Werner Herman (R.I.P) set up a meeting of European professional and user self-help groups including NL’s Nico Adriaans R.I.P http://www.ibogaine.org/adriaans.html and http://jes.aidshilfe.de/index.php

Out of this meeting, the European Interest Group of Drugs Users (EIGDU) was born. The main aim of this network was to wake up policy-makers- lobbying and encouraging them to accelerate the establishment of harm reduction programs, particularly needle-exchange programs. This was done through many press conferences and a book we wrote entitled the “Situation for Drug Users in Europe" (The Users Voice's Andria was the secretary of the EIGDU until its end in 1994.)

EIGDU also wrote and widely distributed a declaration of 10 points, the first of which was demanding a renegotiation of all the international convention on drugs. Today, this is a task, which increasing numbers of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are seriously taking up, e.g. the Senlis Council http://www.senliscouncil.net/ and ENCOD/ http://www.encod.org/ to name but two. Some people ask, ‘why do you need to change the conventions, when NEPs, maintenance programs etc already exist in so many countries?’ There are many answers to this, some of which you will read in editions of the Users Voice below, but the bottom line is to STOP the illegalisation,marginalisation and often disenfranchisement of our fellow citizens all over the planet.

One thing I have personally NEVER been able to understand is WHY we don’t increase the nos. of schools, hospitals, after school-clubs and educational opportunities, all of which have been shown to reduce self-destructive drugs use. But no instead, we increase the prison industrial complex in society “warehousing its often youngest and most vulnerable citizens,” (C.Rangel at a Drug Policy Alliance meeting http://www.drugpolicy.org/about/ in 2000)

This is a terrible terrible shame, BUT millions of people around the world are waking up to the huge cost of such policies, both in terms of human life but also the billions of wasted tax-money penalising a regular human behaviour. (In the U.K. evidence from the NTORS http://www.doh.gov.uk/ntors.htm study has shown that it is 3x cheaper to help a user than it is to punish them by incarceration.)

Since the closure of EIGDU, user groups have proliferated all over the world, where users support each other in
• Disease prevention
• OD prevention
• Accessing stabilising and life-saving drugs, e.g. methadone
• Information about living well; nutritional tips as well as safer use and safer sex reminders!
• We are also helping to build a new social justice movement; the drug policy reform movement

http://www.brugerforeningen.dk/bfny.nsf is one of the many such families around the world, (who amongst other great community services, don yellow jackets each day and go clearing their streets from any discarded used syringes.)

From 1998-2002, the JMT’s magazine, Users Voice was published 18 times. The JMT was assisted to do this by several different funders and graphic designers – Comic Relief, Central and North West London drug services, Drugscope, Bristol Myers Squibb, JPGetty Charitable Foundation, Trevor Parsons, Paul Mitchell, Mohammed Sahid and John Campbell
THANKS A ZILLION TO ALL OF YOU

Enjoy! There are lots of international references, and reports about the vast majority of things that affect drugs-users (and other) lives. Do feel free to quote greedily from & distribute (with appropriate credits) if you need to

The LA times recently reported that Chiron, (a Californian firm), has introduced a new policy for companies wishing to license its HCV patents. Chiron holds over 100 patents related to the HCV genome, which won't expire until 2015. Any company that develops a new drug targeting hepatitis C (such as a protease inhibitor), or a diagnostic test to detect and measure HCV (viral load; tests for screening the blood supply), needs to license Chiron's patents, typically by negotiating a licensing fee and royalties on product sales. Chiron typically charges each company millions of dollars in licensing fees during research and development alone, and makes millions more each year in royalties from HCV tests.

This went beyond the realms of ethical science and their were a number of litigations, before Chiron brought in their new policy which is tied to future sales, so potentially allowing them to make even more money for themselves.

This obviously annoys the companies presently at the forefront of treatment products

, who are having to divert large chunks of their profits, but the fact is that it is not only the financial gains that upset’s people in the HCV field, but also, scientists have complained for years that Chiron Corp has hindered the fight against hepatitis by creating a virtual commercial monopoly over drug research.

Now, federal health officials are reviewing the 14-year-old government agreement that gave Chiron so much control over research that seeks to help the millions of people afflicted with the disease. It is this that has led to Chiron introducing the new royalty payment method reported above, a sort of buy now pay later.

Chiron currently hold 100 patents in 20 countries related to hepatitis C. Competitors had complained they' had abandoned plans to enter the field because Chiron demanded too much money to access its technology. (Chiron successfully sued many companies for infringing its patents related to the virus).

Those patents credit Chiron scientists with discovering the hepatitis C virus -- despite the fact that a scientist from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention contributed much to the original research.

But the CDC signed away to Chiron most of the commercial control of the virus for a little more than $2.2 million in 1990.

There are, however, now over 50 medications in clinical trials for potential use relating to hepatitis C. In 15 years hep C has moved from an insignificant virus, akin to EBV, to being a mass cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry. For instance if the UK prevalence was low, say 200,000 with viral RNA, then based on current statistical models around 60% could be eligible for treatment, which would work out at 120,000 at £6000 per 24 wk treatment cycle, would be £720,000,000. Their would obviously be drop outs, non responders, etc, however, if factoring a percentage that will require 48 weeks treatment, £720 million, would not be far of the mark. This is only considering the current available treatments of Peggylated Interferon Alfa and Ribavirin, which has less than 50% success rates! So in the UK alone this a multi million pound industry, and this is just treatment, the economic costs of lost working years, other hospital treatments for the disease and it’s many associated conditions, then there is the costs of benefits, mental health care and areas in drug rehabilitation failures I will address later.

Meantime there is still concern and tension between the U.S. patent system and free scientific inquiry.

The CDC now, for instance, claims ownership of the SARS virus and its entire genetic content after its researchers helped map the bug's genome. Rather than try to profit from it, the CDC wants to prevent others from monopolizing the field the way Chiron does with hepatitis C
.

It certainly raises some questions about the morality of so much profit at the expense of those affected, not that this is anything new

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Last Updated before: Tue 28-Oct-2008

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