PRESS RELEASE: New roadmap to voluntary community-based services for people who use drugs in Asia
MANILA, 23 September 2015—A roadmap adopted today by nine countries in Asia charts a new course, which aims to accelerate the transition towards evidence informed prevention, treatment and support services for people who use drugs. The participants of the Third Consultation on Compulsory Centres for Drug Users (CCDU) which took place in Manila, Philippines this week recognized that current punitive approaches are failing and a paradigm shift from punitive laws and policies to voluntary community-based services is necessary.
East and South-East Asia is the largest market in the world for amphetamine type stimulants, while the consumption of heroin is also rising in the region. With 3.15 million people who inject drugs (PWID) in 2015, East and South-east Asia account for about a quarter of all PWID worldwide. The common response to the high prevalence of drug use in the region is the confinement of PWID in compulsory treatment and rehabilitation centers. The deprivation of liberty raises human rights concerns as there is no evidence that these centres represent a favourable environment for the treatment of drug dependence.
Senior representatives of drug control, health and finance agencies attended the meeting organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Manila from 20-23 September. They agreed to transition to voluntary community-based services including treatment, through implementing a roadmap.
“The roadmap is a big step forward towards the full implementation of voluntary community based services for people who use drugs in Asia and the Pacific region,” said Steve Kraus, Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific. ”Where communities are engaged and provide services to their peers, we are seeing results. If we scale-up evidence-informed programmes we can end AIDS among people who use drugs in the region.“
“As there is not evidence on the cost-effectiveness of the compulsory centres, it makes more sense to transition to voluntary community-based approaches,” said Benjamin P. Reyes, Deputy Executive Director for Operations, Dangerous Drug Board, Quezon City, Philippines. “The need to transition is a response to the problem of drugs in our communities because it’s evidence-based.”
The roadmap identifies three pillars of action. The first focuses on establishing national task-teams responsible for developing transition plans; the second area encourages national reviews of policies restricting voluntary access to community-based treatment programmes and the third focuses on building the capacity of the health sectors and communities to provide voluntary services, including treatment
“We welcome the commitment of countries to implement the roadmap towards voluntary community based services for people who use drugs,” said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.” If we expand evidence-informed programmes we can bring illicit drug use under control in Asia and the Pacific region. This requires co-ordination between several government sectors namely health, law enforcement, justice and social welfare sectors“
The HIV epidemic driven by the sharing of drug injecting equipment is among the fastest growing in the world. By sharing needles and syringes, a person is three times more likely to transmit HIV than through engaging in unsafe sexual intercourse. About 1.65 million people who inject drugs (PWID) were estimated to be living with HIV worldwide in 2013 and an estimated 29% are living with HIV in South-west Asia. A number of countries in Asia have reported HIV prevalence among PWID higher than 10%. In most compulsory drug detention centres, HIV treatment is not provided and often people who are on treatment need to suspend it during their incarceration.
Strengthening the capacity of public health, security and criminal justice representatives, as well as civil society and communities of people who use drugs, to better understand and facilitate the maximum protection of the human rights of people who use drugs, is a key element of the national transition plans.
The countries participating in the Third Consultation on Compulsory Centres for Drug Users were Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.
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