Thursday, June 9, 2011

Because it's Worked Great So Far

Bit of a shame really.

As calls are made for the world to begin looking forward regarding the so-called "War on Drugs", Russia resolutely returns to an abjectly failed policy.

"Sending more people to prison will not reduce drug addiction or improve public health," said Anya Sarang, president of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, an advocacy group for people with HIV which works with injecting drug users (IDUs). "Russian prisons are terrible places full of HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases. Drugs are often even more accessible there than anywhere else."

She added: "What we need instead of this harsh drug control rhetoric is greater emphasis on rehabilitation, substitution treatment, case management for drug users and protection from HIV."

HIV prevalence among IDUs in western countries is 1 or 2%, but lack of outreach work and the absence of opiate substitution (methadone) and other "harm reduction" measures mean the figure is 16% in Russia – rising to 60% in hotspots such as St Petersburg.

Denis Broun, the Moscow-based director of UNAids for Europe and central Asia, told the Guardian that Gryzlov's proposals could make matters even worse.

"It has been widely shown that criminalising people using drugs simply drives them underground and makes them much harder to reach with preventative measures," he said. "This is not an effective strategy for fighting HIV. Purely repressive measures do not work."

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