HIV high on the agenda at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs session in Vienna

Tracy Parish

19 March, 2013

The following resolution on HIV/AIDS and drug use was adopted by Member States at the 56th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March in Vienna.

Intensifying the efforts to achieve the targets of the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS among people who use drugs, in particular the target to reduce HIV transmission among people who inject drugs by 50 percent by 2015.

Below is an excerpt from a UNAIDS article outlining the issues raised at the Session.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director, Yury Fedotov has placed HIV and drug use at the heart of the global agenda.

“HIV transmission through injecting drug use continues to be one of the main unresolved challenges of the international community. Widespread stigma, discrimination and lack of access to evidence-informed HIV services are among the key challenges,” he said.

Addressing more than 1000 representatives of Member States and civil society, he said that despite “notable progress” in increasing access to HIV services for people who inject drugs, there is still a long way to go.

“Human rights and public health considerations must be at the core of the international response to drug use and HIV,” he said.

Through the June 2011 United Nations General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, the world is committed to halving the number of drug users who acquire HIV by 2015.

According to UNAIDS, harm reduction strategies are key to prevent new HIV infections among people who use drugs. A comprehensive, evidence-informed package requires: needle and syringe programs, opioid substitution therapy, HIV testing and counselling, antiretroviral therapy and condom programs for people who use drugs and their sexual partners. It also entails prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and hepatitis as well as information, education and communication materials intended specifically for people who use drugs.

This stigmatized population bears a very heavy burden of the virus, which is often transmitted through the use of unsterilised needles.

UNAIDS’ global report 2012 revealed that in 49 countries HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is at least 22 times higher than among the population as a whole and in 11 countries their level of infection is more than 50 times higher.

A very large number of individuals are affected. According to the 2012 UNODC World Drug Report, an estimated 15 to 16 million people, in 151 countries, inject drugs. A 2008 global study showed that three million were living with HIV. In several countries—notably in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, one of two regions where the number of new infections is increasing—the AIDS epidemic is being driven by unsafe injecting drug use.

People who use drugs are much less likely to be reached by HIV-related services, such as testing. HIV-positive women who use drugs do not access programs to prevent their children being born with the virus as often as other women. Surveys in capital cities reveal that drug users also report lower condom use than men who have sex with men or sex workers.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is the United Nations central policy-making body mandated to deal with a broad range of drug-related issues.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Tracy Parish

Executive General Manager, Marketing and Communications




[email protected]

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