Georgia joins Global protest

Georgia has joined up with 8 other countries across the world to protest at Russias treatment of people who use drugs, their disastrous policies on HIV, and their banning of OST such as methadone, which is causing outbreaks of home made opiates such as krokodil – which has recently crossed the border into Georgia itself. Georgian’s who suffer from extremely severe penalties for illicit drug use, are turning to home made opiates because of the massive price hike in street heroin. Despite being so close to the Afghan border, the price remains prohibitive for most Georgians simply due to the fact that the penalties for its use and trafficking are so high, thus the price reflects the risk. krokodil is a fraction of the cost -harm reduction info is scarce -the health implications are massive. Georgians will be protesting at the Swiss embassy due to the  fact their is no Russian Embassy currently  in Georgia and the Swiss embassy has taken on the interim role. Go Georgia. Make no mistake – these people are courageous to be coming out and protesting on this issue. Thank you Georgia, we will be demonstrating beside you in solidarity.

 

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Protest at Russian Embassies Worldwide: Dec 1st World Aids Day

The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with...

Dec 1st 2011

In Russia today, we are bearing witness to one of the biggest, avoidable catastrophes in the history of HIV – the lack of response to the epidemic in Russia. We must point directly to the specific responsibility that Russian medical and public health officials bear for creating and sustaining this disastrous situation. Of particular concern are Russia’s, brutalising drug policies and its recently revised Total War on Drugs, which has resulted in further pushing people who use drugs into hiding, prison, and enforced detention, and severely compromising efforts from the international community to revert the trajectory of HIV/AIDS. The world is approaching a crossroads; a strong and decisive downward trajectory in the epidemic is possible in all countries -but it will only happen if the people who are most vulnerable to infection are supported and their human rights realised. Governments have legal obligations to act. Indeed, the implementation of harm reduction measures is consistant with and required by states obligations under international human rights law. 1,2.

Injecting drugs with contaminated equipment is driving Russia’s HIV epidemic, now the fastest growing in the world and it is reflected in the numbers; as many as 80% of new infections are occurring amongst people who inject drugs (PWID), in a total HIV positive population of approx 1million. With this in mind, recent projections forecast an additional 5 million people could become infected with HIV in the near future, unless Russia transforms the way it is dealing with its HIV pandemic.6

Russian authorities have repeatedly come in for fierce international criticism over their policy towards the treatment of drug dependence, which relies almost completely on the promotion of abstinence to the exclusion of harm reduction.  Russian officials claim, incorrectly, that the effectiveness of opiate substitution therapy (such as providing methadone and buprenorphine) has not been adequately demonstrated, and as such it is prohibited by law. Yet, despite the addition in 2005 of these two drugs to WHO’s list of essential medicines, and multiple position papers by international experts calling for substitution treatment as a critical element in the response to HIV (IOM, 2006; UNODC, UNAIDS, and WHO, 2005), methadone or buprenorphine remain prohibited by law in Russia and promotion of its use – punishable by a jail sentence. With over 30,000 people dying from drug overdoses every year, numbers that can be shown to markedly reduce with the implementation of OST, and 150 becoming infected with HIV each day (2/3rds of which are injecting drug users), also evidenced to drastically reduce with the roll out of Needle and Syringe Programmes (NSP), it is upon everyone who cares about humanity, to demand an immediate transformational shift in Russia’s approach to HIV prevention and its treatment of drug users.  Access to NSP and OST is in itself, a human right;  UN Ruman Rights Monitors have specifically stated harm reduction interventions as necessary for states to comply with the right to health. 5)
Consistent evidence from around the world shows that treatment for opiate dependence works most effectively when the exclusive goal of abstinence is widened to foster multiple outcomes – including reduction in use of illicit opiates, exposures to blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis, reduction in drug overdoses, better management of existing health problems etc. Evidence has repeatedly shown the clear benefits to the individual and society as a whole when drug dependence is viewed as a public health issue, as opposed to a criminal one. Evidence also shows OST, combined with a range of harm reduction measures such NSP, leads to a drastic reduction in the spread of new HIV infections in countries across the globe; none of this more clearly demonstrated today, than in Netherlands, a world leader in harm reduction where in 2010, only ONE injecting drug user contracted HIV. In the UK, another country that has harm reduction at the centre of its HIV prevention strategy, prevalence of HIV amongst drug injectors is at 1.5%, this against a Russian HIV prevalence backdrop of 30-35%. The evidence on harm reduction has been in for years. Why does Russia continue to turn its back?
The Russian government‘s estimated annual expenditure related to drug law enforcement) equal approx 100 million US  dollars. 7. This amount does not include the money spent on detention and imprisonment. In stark comparison, only 20 million US dollars was allocated to HIV and hepatitis B and C  prevention combined, among all population groups in 2011. By 2013, amounts spent will be three times less. Considering the context and tendencies in the development of the HIV epidemic in Russia, clearly such policies are not leading to any positive results. No money at all is allocated towards HIV prevention among the injecting drug using population.6Such punitive and torturous approaches to tackling drug use are not only fuelling the HIV epidemic in the region, but also the stigma, hate and ignorance of drugs, and of people who use drugs.  The insistence by both the Russian government and medical profession to treat drug users as criminals that need imprisonment at worst, and at best – enforced detention, has meant harm-reduction programs, including needle exchange, are officially accused of propagandizing drug use and activists have been arrested, harrassed and imprisoned for promoting harm reduction measures. Demonstrators who have protested and spoken out against the Russian response to HIV/AIDS are also regularly arrested and detained, including HIV positive people calling for access to ARV’s (drugs to treat HIV) and an end to treatment interruption fuelling drug resistant strains of HIV.

This World Aids Day, December 1st 2011, we will echo the urgent voices of Russian drug users who are living and dying in the grip of an HIV and TB pandemic with almost no recourse or chance to engage in or promote an effective response.  . We will gather at Russian embassies around the world to demand Russia to change it current course towards death and disease. We want to see inappropriately aggressive, state sponsored hostility to drug users replaced by enlightened, scientifically driven attitudes and more equitable societal responses” 3 We demand our own countries to apply pressure wherever and whenever they can, voicing publicly our concerns about human rights abuses in the Russian response to drug use and HIV.

Sound, evidenced based and cost effective harm reduction solutions stand at the forefront of what has been shown to effectively prevent HIV infection in the drug using community. The personal narratives of people who use drugs and their allies on the front line of human right struggles must be recognised and remain a key part of today’s growing evidence base. People who use drugs must be seen as central players in the search for solutions rather than being framed and targeted as the problem.
Nothing About Us Without Us  www.inpud.net
Dec 1st at Russian Embassies in London, Stockholm, Berlin, Bucharest, New York, Sydney/Canberra, Spain (?), and Toronto. Dec 1st
 for times and locations follow updates at https://russianembassyprotest.wordpress.com or (add your email/website)

1) UNIDCP Flexibility of Treaty positions as regards harm redcution approaches, decision 74/10 Geneva UN 2002 ,
2) UNODC World Drug Report Vienna 2009
3) Lancet July 2010 HIV in people who use Drugs
4) The right to the highest attainable standard of health; Article 12, comment 14  International Covenent on  Economic, Cultural and Social Rights 2000
5) Barrett D et al;  Harm Reduction and Human Rights, the Global response to drug related HIV Epidemics. London, HRI, 2009
6) News Release, Oct 7th 2011, Risk of HIV Hitting Catastrophic Levels; from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; Eurasian Harm Reduction Network; Harm Reduction International;
7) Articles 228-233 of the Russian Criminal Code

Drug users to be jailed in Russia

Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation (1993-p...

Changes to the criminal code will see repeat drug users jailed in Russia

Here is a news item published in RT news during October as Russia made moves to change its criminal code, so that people who used drugs who were repeatedly caught, would automatically face jail or enforced rehab. They are planning to roll out state run treatment programmes in Russia which is disconcerting to say the least when looking at the current state of health care in Russia and the punitive treatment approaches for people who use drugs. How Russia plans to cope with its 2million strong drug using population if its forces them into rehab and jail isn’t clear, but it certainly throws up a red flag for human rights and harm reduction based organisations around the world.. Click here for the link to RT video on this. Below is the news report from RT.

Published: 06 October, 2011, 21:19 Follow link for this news story in full from RT  The country’s anti-drugs agency has drafted changes to the Criminal Code that would see repeat drug users go to jail.

The agency proposes to outlaw drug abuse, which covers any use of drugs prescribed for medical reasons. Those caught using drugs will be either sent to prison or sent to obligatory rehabilitation centers.

“Passing prison sentences for drug users is not our target,” said Sergey Yakovkev, aide to the head of Russia’s anti-drugs agency. “We want it to be an additional legal mechanism that would cause people to quit drug abuse.”

In 2004, the laws on drug use were significantly relaxed. When caught, drug users could simply pay a fine between 500 and 1,000 rubles or be detained for a maximum of 15 days. Instead of paying a fine, an offender could agree to call a doctor and go through voluntary treatment.

Annually, Russian anti-drug services confiscate more than three tons of heroin and arrest more than 100,000 people, while 7,500 people die of drug overdoses. In total, there are around two to six million drug users in Russia (according to different estimates) – five per cent of the able-bodied population.

The criminalization of drug abuse has been discussed for years, and the subject is still a source of much debate.

“Any civilized country pulling itself out of a drug crisis has done the following: on the one hand, it has criminalized drug use, while on the other, it has opened the door to medical and social rehabilitation,” Evgeny Roizman, director at City Without Drugs Foundation, told RT. “This has had a huge impact. But since we don’t have any law on compulsory medical treatment, this measure will only go halfway.”

“This idea is despicable for two reasons,” Oleg Zhukov, doctor and member of Public Chamber, told RT. “First, I think it’s immoral to jail a person for being sick. And second, this measure will only increase the number of drug addicts. When they get out of prison, people have a criminal mentality based on violence. And violence in any form is exactly what pushes them to drugs.”

Russian Embassy Protest – Dec 1st 2011

Stamp of Russia. AIDS 1993, 90 rubles, CPA #?

World Aids day, Dec 1st

On World Aids Day, Dec 1st this year, people will gather outside Russian Embassies and consulates around the world to protest against the brutal and inhumane treatment of people who use drugs in Russia today. This blog will provide an opportunity to post a variety of important, shocking and truthful accounts of what is happening inside Russia today, events in a country that expects to be taken seriously on the world stage, while allowing thousands upon thousands of its citizens to die needlessly of diseases like HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, drug overdoses, drug poisonings, and hepatitis C.

It is clear that in Russia today, we are bearing witness to one of the biggest avoidable catastrophes in the history of HIV – the lack of response to the epidemic in Russia. In particular, we must point directly to the special responsibility that Russian medical and public health officials bear for creating and sustaining this disastrous situation.

Methadone and Subutex, have been recognised and listed for years by the World Health Organisation as essential medicines for people dependant on opiate type drugs, and country after country has adopted the evidence based science behind such drug treatment strategies. Russia however, still refuses to acknowledge the huge benefit Opiate Substitution Therapy (OST), meanwhile estimates on the numbers of injecting drug users are growing -1.6-3million people are believed to use drugs -with no access whatsoever to OST such as methadone. Overdose rates stand at around 30,000 per year -that is around 80 mothers, brothers, sisters, and children, dying each and every day. No other country in the world has as many overdoses per head of population, than Russia does today. Why? Because of it’s insistence on using outdated methods to ‘treat’ or simply ignore drug dependence; because it continues to treat people who use drugs as criminals that must be locked away in prison, chained to beds in rehab centres, and stripped of their rights within Russian society. Due to this insistence to ignore the obvious evidence base for harm reduction, an HIV pandemic has exploded across the EEC region, as hundreds and thousands of people become infected with HIV. With extremely limited numbers of needle exchanges available offering sterile syringes to injectors, (all of them funded by NGO’s and not the Russian government), the rate of new infections is set only to grow as rapidly in the future as it has over the last decade.. Currently, eighty per cent of all new HIV infections are in the injecting drug using population, most of which are under 30 years of age and, following the UN office of Drugs and Crime, 40% of Russia’s 1.6million injecting drug users (1) are estimated to be women. Yet the local groups who do manage to provide harm reduction services report as few as one in six of their clients as female. Where are they going for help or support? Answer – They remain off the radar. As NGO’s struggle to fill the huge gaps in services for people who use drugs, poverty, stigma, domestic violence, police harassment, and fear of losing custody of their children are only some of the barriers preventing women who use drugs from seeking medical and counseling services. And, research has shown that if they do come for medical care, they are likely to be denied access or receive substandard services from doctors and nurses who are not trained and not prepared to deal with their issues. Remembering those with HIV/AIDS this World Aids Day Overwhelmingly, women who use drugs do not have access to basic medical care on a regular basis, although they are at a high risk of HIV and other life-threatening illnesses. Drug treatment options are also extremely limited, since drug treatment programs inRussia rarely— if ever— accommodate women with children or pregnant women. Another frequent barrier to care is the requirement that patients present a full set of legal documents— their passport, residence registration, and proof of medical insurance— to receive treatment at AIDS centers. Women and men who use drugs often lack some or all of these papers and thus are denied care. Again, much needed harm reduction programs offer help with residency registration and other documents through legal advocacy. This is the first post in a series that will lead up to World Aids day, and will follow in the footsteps of Russian drug users who took up a protest in Russia on International Drug User Day November 1st 2009, where they attempted to lay flowers and white slippers (a symbol that is put of the coffins of the dead in Russia) on the steps of their embassy. Immediately police rushed out of the building and chased the peaceful demonstrators arresting 5 of them. See link here On  21st July 2011, on International Remembrance Day for people who have died from drugs, the protest expanded again, this time with demonstrators in countries including Spain, Hungary and Germany who also appeared out front of their Russian embassies. All calling for Russia to adopt evidenced based, scientifically sound, cost effective harm reduction and hiv prevention programmes and to stop the human rights abuses of people who use drugs -each and every one who deserves a chance to live a healthy life, free from prison, disease and discrimination. This year on World Aids day, protests will continue again, expanding further, being held in the UK (London), USA (New York), Australia (Sydney, Canberra), France (Marseilles) Romania (Bucharest), Spain (TBC) Canada (Toronto), Sweden (Stockholm) Germany (Berlin). Follow us on FaceBook to find out times and places or stay tuned to this blog (you can subscribe to updates here). (1) UNAIDS, Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, 2010p.38