June 1, 2020
Against the backdrop of COVID-19, recalling the 2012 Joint Statement on compulsory
drug detention and rehabilitation centres and the 2020 Joint Statement on COVID-19
in prisons and other closed settings, United Nations entities urgently appeal to Member
States to permanently close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres and
implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in
the community as an important measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to facilitate
the recovery and reintegration of those in the centres back into their families and
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing multiple challenges to countries in Asia and the
Pacific in designing and implementing response and recovery measures that are
efficient and respect the rights of all people, with the objective of leaving no one behind.
Among the groups particularly at risk of contracting the virus are people in compulsory
drug detention and rehabilitation centers. They are often comprised of people who are
suspected of using drugs or being dependent on drugs, people who have engaged in
sex work, or children who have been victims of sexual exploitation.
Criteria for detention in these centres vary within and among countries, but people are
often detained without sufficient due process, legal safeguards or judicial review in the
name of “treatment” or “rehabilitation”. They face higher vulnerabilities, including HIV,
TB as well as COVID-19, as a result of sub-standard living conditions, including massive
overcrowding and related challenges in maintaining physical distancing. Moreover,
detention in these centres has been reported to involve forced labour, lack of adequate
nutrition, physical and sexual violence, and denial or comparatively lower access to and
quality of healthcare services.
During this global health emergency, United Nations entities reiterate their call on
Member States that operate compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres to
close them permanently without further delay, to release individuals detained as an
important additional measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to refrain from the
use of any other form of detention.
The United Nations entities stand ready to work with Member States as they take steps
to permanently close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres and to
transition to an evidence-informed system of voluntary community-based treatment and
services that are aligned with international guidelines and principles of drug dependence treatment, drug use and human rights.
For media enquiries:
Todd Pitman, Public Information Officer, UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia, + 66 63 216 9080, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michela Polesana, Advocacy Adviser, UNAIDS Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, + 66 94 519 4092, email@example.com
As the coronavirus pandemic has unfurled across the world, the public health crisis has brought with it considerable social and economic aftershocks, which may be felt disproportionately by populations which are likely to be left behind. Aside from the direct risks to physical health, the psychological impacts of COVID-19 also pose significant risks to mental-wellbeing as elevated levels of stress and anxiety are further exacerbated by the ongoing uncertainty of the situation. The discrimination and marginalization experienced by members of young key populations (YKPs) and young people living with HIV (YPLHIV) places them at heightened risk of experiencing mental health challenges during this time. National lockdowns, restricted movement and closure of non-formal education opportunities resulting in a lack of social engagement with peers and educators, may further aggravate feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety in young key populations and young people living with HIV.
Message from Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific
In a world with advancing biomedical technology for preventing, testing and treating HIV, it is shocking that AIDS is still so prevalent in this modern age. Globally 35.4 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
Behind these numbers are lives of humans unnecessarily lost, and families and friends who were left behind. We mourn for them. And today we remember them. Read More
Message from Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific
17 May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. This year’s theme is Breaking the Silence.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continue to face high levels of violence and inequalities. Punitive laws continue to penalize their behaviors, identities and gender expressions, perpetuating discrimination and exclusion. Read More
COVID-19 is a serious pandemic, unprecedented in our lifetime. On 13 April 2020, Inti Muda and UNAIDS conducted a survey to assess the needs of young key populations (YKP) and young people living with HIV (PLHIV) and the possibility of severe disruption to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and other related services during COVID-19 outbreak. The survey, initiated at the regional level by the Interagency Task Team (IATT) on Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific, assesses information needs, medication on hand, and ability to access HIV services and support networks among YKP and young PLHIV.
Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015 and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific, has stepped up to support the COVID-19 response in the Philippines and the rest of the region. Among other initiatives, she has started a fundraising campaign with the aim of distributing 25 000 surgical and KN95 facemasks to hospitals in Metro Manila.
Ms Wurtzbach has participated in the online #RiseAsOnePH organized by LoveYourself in collaboration with UNAIDS and partners in support of the people on the frontlines and the communities most affected by the pandemic. She is taking her advocacy work to her social media platforms, where she has been sharing and amplifying key messages and guidance on preventing COVID-19 and HIV.
Ms Wurtzbach shared with UNAIDS what she is doing to support the COVID-19 response and talked about her feelings during this challenging time.
COVID-19 is a serious pandemic, unprecedented in our lifetime. The Interagency Task Team (IATT) on Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific, concerned about the welfare of young key populations and young people living with HIV and the possibility of severe disruption to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and other related services during COVID-19 outbreak, launched a rapid survey to contribute to mitigating the impact of this pandemic. This survey assesses information needs, medication on hand, and ability to access HIV services and support networks among young key populations and young people living with HIV from Asia and the Pacific region during the COVID-19 outbreak. The survey was developed in English but has later been translated into Thai, Burmese and Bahasa Indonesia. The outcomes of the survey are expected to help support local solutions through the leadership of young key populations and young people living with HIV in providing information, finding joint problem-solving measures, and being a voice for the voiceless. Initial responses in English will be considered in this paper and will be enriched by the analysis of findings in the other languages (Thai, Burmese and Bahasa Indonesia). Read More
New Delhi, India, 23 April 2020 — In India, the UNAIDS Country Office has partnered with Reckitt Benckiser (RB) by joining forces to distribute over a million bars of soap to people living with HIV and key populations.
The soaps are being distributed through networks of people living with HIV, civil society organizations and community-based organizations as part of the national response to the COVID-19 epidemic. They have reached people in several states and union territories, including Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. The soaps are being delivered to communities through outreach workers, who are also dispensing antiretroviral medicines and other HIV commodities, sometimes direct to the doorsteps of people who need them. Read More