Marsha B’s speech to the UNGASS 1998

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for allowing me to address you here today. My name is Marsha and I am a recovering addict living with HIV disease. I am a 43 year old mother of four children , two of whom are still in foster care, in the State of Vermont. I am in process of getting my children back by September. I have been drug free since 1991, [seven years] and I bring my experiences to all the activism I am involved in

These are the things I want to say to you today:
First of all, if we really care about the pain, suffering and isolation of addicted drug users, we must be willing to listen to what they say they need: it is a fact that some of the most useful strategies used to reduce or try and eliminate the death, disease and crime associated with this level of drug use were designed by drugs users themselves.

But user-participation is not possible while we are prosecuted for being users. I decided to come here today to tell you how the “War on Drugs” directly affects my life and the lives of countless others in the hope that we might all be willing to reconsider the repressive drug policy paradigm, which has been the norm for decades all over the world.

First of all, a basic human right is infringed, as we are persecuted for using certain arbitrarily-decreed illegal drugs. As a result of this persecution, criminalisation and isolation, it is very difficult to prioritise our health and other important matters of our lives. Even if this were not the case, policies all over the world have been so focused on getting us off drugs that some greater priorities have been overlooked. The most obvious of these is the primary prevention of Blood Borne Diseases (BBDs): needle exchange research from all over the world has proved the efficacy of the programs to reduce the spread of these infectious diseases, but for example, the U.S federal government has systematically refused for over a decade to support the establishment of these programs on the grounds that they would encourage people to use drugs. However, the result of this has been the rapid spread of HIV, Hepatitis, and other diseases, which have killed thousands of drug injectors and their children, and has placed enormous financial burdens on our public health and social services. For anybody who may be wondering, there is absolutely no evidence that the existence of needle-exchange programs have increased the number of injection drug users in any given community.

In a Harm Reduction model of Public Health, we accept that people use drugs:moreover there has never been a time in history when they didn’t. Therefore, the most compassionate and pragmatic way to deal with this is to focus on minimizing the harms especially for those whose drug use has gotten out of control, and it is very important to remember that the vast majority of people do not become drug-dependent..it is especially important to remember this when the fear of our loved ones using drugs destructively overwhelms us. In fact, millions of people regularly use drugs and are leading normal, healthy law-abiding lives. We therefore wonder why they are punished by the law…

Another big problem of this “war” is the fact that black market supplies of drugs are very expensive and therefore some drug-dependents have resorted to all manner of opportunistic crime to fund their drug addictions. This is not because we are evil or sociopathic, as many appear to assume. No! It is because the criminalisation that comes to bear on our lives pushes us into the periphery of society where crime is a constant, and where there may be no other alternative. Besides, known drug users are hardly likely to get jobs easily unless they are privileged in some other social or economic way. Ergo, our involvement in petty crime to fund the monster-addiction inside.

The apparent desire for a drug-free world is unrealistic. Our thinking/attitude is not about defeatism or capitulation; it is simply about facing facts. We have never had totally drug-free societies. Moreover, would any of us be happy if alcohol was on a total licit ban?

So as an ex-user myself living with AIDS, I would appeal to you to reconsider your current drug policies. Is Universal needle-exchange really a lot to ask for, given the fact that we would be preventing so much decimating illness amongst us, and also not burdening our societies with enormous public health bills? Is it really so much to ask?

Before I end, I want to say this. We are not asking you to condone drug use. We are simply saying that current policies are not working for the good of ALL humanity and therefore we would ask you to be open to a more thorough debate on the subject matter. Is it really OK in your heart if we sacrifice the lives of millions of people at the alter of economic and military interests?

I would like to thank my colleagues Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt and Martin Barriuso – European advocates – for helping with the preparation of this speech

Thank you for listening
Marsha B (RIP)

We Can End AIDS – March in Washington DC

Full report

Action 4 MS

My story – by Clark French

The last year my life has changed dramatically, like no other year before it. Life has changed to the extent that I’m no longer really the same person I was a year ago – I’ve had the hardest time of my life, by a long shot, but I’ve come out the other side a much stronger and more mature person. This is most definitely not meant to be a Sad story – I hope it will come across as the Opposite.

On the 19th of February this year, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and soon after I formed a new MS non profit organisation called Action4MS.

I wanted to help other young people living with MS who have been diagnosed, I was lucky when it came to knowing where to find the help I needed after I was diagnosed, mainly though family history as my Mother and Late step father both have/had the disease. I decided to set up my own group as I believe there is a huge demographic of people in the UK that are under the age of 40 and do live in silence with their symptoms, maybe a few close friends and family know but they do not feel able to let the world at large know, which in turn means they are much less likely to to have treatments to help their symptoms. So I recognised a need for an on the ground approach to help other young People who have the same problems as me. Because I grew up around my mothers and step fathers MS I know how difficult it can be seeing someone you love struggle with such an awful disease. Action4MS aims to help all young people effected by MS, not just those who have been diagnosed themselves. this up Action4MS partly down to the illegality of the medicine, that makes me able to achieve my life goals, dispute my diagnosis.

12 Steps to “Living positively with Hepatitis C”

As an illness hepatitis C can take a long time to become symptomatic, however, when it does it can affect people in many different ways, how each person reacts to this will be different. In fact everything could differ from one person to another and what they do to manage their illness will be different. However, in saying that there are some broad steps to maintaining a quality of life, says Grant McNally, as well as mental health and preventing decline from setting in. Being positive may sound a cliche and also an effort but, research bears out the difference it can make to prolonging life.

So much so that without it illnesses such as HCV, may speed up in their progression.

1. Take Control of Your Illness. You may think you’re helpless, but you’re not. Take control of your life back with a combination of information and attitude. Be a part of every decision about your treatment. Resist the urge to leave it all in your doctor’s hands.

2. Insist on Options. Forget about second opinions. Look instead for second options. There are no absolutes in medicine, no inevitabilities. There are multiple solutions to every problem. You just have to find them. Don’t be afraid of choices; embrace them.

Ibogaine Video

Campaign targets Malaysia to end death penalty for drug offences

From March 8th – 12th (2010) during the yearly meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, governments from all over the world will once again declare their support to the global fight against drugs, i.e. the substances that were prohibited worldwide by a UN Convention in 1961.

In Malaysia, as in 21 other countries in the world, people who use or possess relatively small quantities of drugs, including cannabis, are sentenced to death. These sentences are mandatory: judges have no possibility to invoke any extenuating circumstance. Furthermore, the usual burden of proof is reversed so that an individual is presumed to be guilty unless he or she can prove otherwise.

International Conventions on Human Rights, various UN Human Rights Bodies and the UN Secretary General have expressed that:

“the death penalty should only be considered in cases where the crime is intentional and results in lethal or extremely grave consequences, not in cases of economic, non-violent or victimless offences.

In those cases a death sentence may be considered as an arbitrary execution.”

The use, sale or trafficking of drugs is not intended to have a lethal outcome.

People use drugs to feel good or to feel better, and as long as there is a demand there will always be a supply. Also in Malaysia, drug use has continued to rise in spite of the death penalty. The people who are occasionally caught by authorities do not have major responsibilities in this business. Killing them will not scare the drug gangs away. On the contrary: thanks to these punishments, the leaders in the drug business can continue to justify extraordinary high prices for their goods.

Legitimized by the United Nations, drug prohibition continues to drive repressive policies and legislation including death sentence. These policies are typically rooted in moral in stead of rational arguments, and impede the development of progressive and effective responses to any problems that the use of drugs may cause.

Heroin Anthrax Infection Spikes London

Feb 8 2010: The first case of anthrax in England has been confirmed in a heroin user in London. This follows the ongoing cluster of confirmed cases of anthrax among heroin users in Scotland. A number of these people have died from anthrax thought to be from contaminated heroin.

Anthrax is a rare and very serious bacterial infection that is acquired when spores of the anthrax bacterium get in to the body. The spores can be found in soil but may also be present in contaminated supplies of street drugs such as heroin. Drug users may become infected through injecting the contaminated drugs into the skin and muscles or through injecting the drugs into the bloodstream. It may also be possible to become infected through the lungs by inhaling or smoking contaminated drugs. Once infected, it is extremely rare for anthrax to be spread from one person to another, and there is no significant risk of airborne transmission.

Anthrax can be cured with antibiotics, if the medical treatment is started early. It is therefore important to know what sorts of symptoms and signs to look for, so that there are no delays in obtaining the necessary treatment. The symptoms and signs include: severe swelling or redness around a wound site, which may be painless; pain at a site where you have previously injected; an open sore or wound; pus collecting under the skin; or a more generalised and severe flu-like illness (with muscle aches, headache, tiredness and high fever). If you have used heroin and suspect that you have any or all of these symptoms, especially if the infection seems different to others you may have had in the past – seek medical attention as a matter or urgency, either from your GP or local Accident & Emergency Department.

What to do to reduce the risk of getting this infection:

  • There is no way to tell if your supply of heroin (or other drugs) is contaminated with anthrax.
  • There is no safe route for consuming heroin (or other drugs) that may be contaminated with anthrax as there is a potential serious risk from inhaling or smoking the anthrax, as well as from injecting it.
  • Drug users currently in drug treatment, should stop using heroin altogether.
  • Heroin users not in drug treatment should stop using heroin if possible and talk to a doctor or someone at a drug service about starting on a prescribed alternative drug (such as methadone or buprenorphine) and/or other treatment options.
  • If you continue to use heroin then: If you get symptoms of an infection you should get a doctor to check it out immediately as a matter of urgency. Always use a clean needle and syringe. Don’t share needles, syringes, cookers/spoons or other ‘works’ with other drug users.

Users' Voice in Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN, KABUL – some observations by Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt MSc

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.

Why we need an international network of drug user activists.

Users’ Voice editor Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt giving it some volume

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 unnecessarily, 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.

Profile: Joycelyn Woods of the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates

Users’ Voice 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, generally what they read about themselves is very negative.” – Joycelyn Woods

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.

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