John Mordaunt Trust


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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