At DEA, our mission is to fight drug trafficking in order to make drug abuse the most expensive, unpleasant, risky, and disreputable form of recreation a person could have.
-- Donnie Marshall,
Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

Making Sure Drugs Kill:
Commission Blames Drug War for Spreading AIDS
by Phillip Smith, June 26, 2012h stopthedrugwar notsofasteddie

On Tuesday, as the UN's global drug prohibition bureaucracy marked its annual International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and UN Office on Drugs and Crime head Yuri Fedotov blamed hard drug use for "bringing misery to thousands of people, insecurity, and the spread of HIV," a group of leading international voices offered a starkly contrasting perspective, arguing instead that is the failures and consequences of global drug prohibition that are driving the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases among drug users.

Commission members Michel Kazatchkine, Ruth Dreifuss, and Ilana Szabo at London press conference

Those voices, gathered together as the Global Commission on Drug Policy, include six former presidents from around the world, public health experts, and socially conscious entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Branson. They took the opportunity of global anti-drug day to issue a report, The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic that directly condemns the drug war as a failure and calls for immediate, fundamental reforms of the global drug prohibition regime to slow the spread of HIV and reduce other drug war harms.

There are an estimated 33 million people worldwide infected with HIV, and outside sub-Saharan Africa, injection drug use accounts for one-third of new infections. The situation is particularly bad in Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union and East Bloc that continue to take harsh drug war approaches to drug use despite the evidence before their own eyes. In Russia, nearly one in a hundred adults is now infected with HIV.

But it's not just the Russian sphere where policymakers ignore the evidence. The report also cites China, Thailand, and the US, where Congress recently reinstated a longstanding ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. In countries that have adopted evidence-based HIV prevention programs, such as Switzerland and Portugal, injection drug use-related HIV infections have nearly been eliminated.

According to the report, drug prohibition and the criminalization of drug users spurs the spread of HIV through the following means:

Fear of arrest drives persons who use drugs underground, away from HIV testing and HIV prevention services and into high-risk environments.

Restrictions on provision of sterile syringes to drug users result in increased syringe sharing.

Prohibitions or restrictions on opioid substitution therapy and other evidence-based treatment result in untreated addiction and avoidable HIV risk behavior.

Deficient conditions and lack of HIV prevention measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks among incarcerated drug users.

Disruptions of HIV antiretroviral therapy result in elevated HIV viral load and subsequent HIV transmission and increased antiretroviral resistance.

Limited public funds are wasted on harmful and ineffective drug law enforcement efforts instead of being invested in proven HIV prevention strategies.

"The Global Commission is calling on all entities to acknowledge and address the causal links between the war on drugs' criminalization of drug use and drug users and the spread of HIV/AIDS," commission member Michel Kazatchkine, the former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria told a London press conference. "For people who inject drugs and their sex partners, the AIDS epidemic continues to be a public health emergency."

"It is so clear now that there is a relation between repressive drug policies and the spread of HIV/AIDS," said former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria. "If we don't get people into the health system without fear, it will be very difficult to do treatment and prevention."

Commission member Sir Richard Branson at "Atlantic Exchange" drug policy discussion, Washington, DC, March 2012

"I have long thought the war on drugs did more harm than good, and the commission's report put the data behind those beliefs," said Branson. "The war on drugs is not stopping drug use, and it also contributes significantly to the AIDS epidemic by driving users into the shadows. As an entrepreneur, if my business was failing for 40 years, I would close it down. Refusing to implement public health measures to reduce HIV and protect people with a drug problem is nothing short of criminal."

Branson and the other commissioners made some concrete recommendations for action in the report. Those include:

Push national governments to halt the practice of arresting and imprisoning people who use drugs but do no harm to others.

Measure drug policy success by indicators that have real meaning in communities, such as reduced rates of transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases, fewer overdose deaths, reduced drug market violence, fewer individuals incarcerated and lowered rates of problematic substance use.

Respond to the fact that HIV risk behavior resulting from repressive drug control policies and under-funding of evidence-based approaches is the main issue driving the HIV epidemic in many regions of the world.

Act urgently: The war on drugs has failed, and millions of new HIV infections and AIDS deaths can be averted if action is taken now.

"The AIDS epidemic is a harsh and brutal teacher that obliges us to take a scientific approach to deal with sex workers and drug addicts," said former Swiss President and commission member Ruth Dreifuss. "Politicians have to inform citizens of the benefits, risks, and failures of drug policy, and politics has to take responsibility for policy change. Public health has to be at least as important as criminalizing the drug traffic," she told the press conference.

"Addicted injecting drug users is one of the main sources of the spread, and not all of them will achieve abstinence," said Dreifuss. "Substitution therapies can take people away from street drug dealers and violence. For some, the provision of medical heroin is necessary to allow them to abandon criminal activities and overcome marginalization. It's possible to implement these large scale programs at low costs with high benefits," she argued.

"For others, harm reduction measures are necessary in order to avoid the spread of HIV/AIDS and other bloodborne disease. Needle exchange programs, free condoms, safe consumption rooms all not only save the lives of drug users but protect the whole population," Dreifuss explained. "We need the full spectrum of these measures for those in prison, too, who are at more risk for HIV infections."

Dreifuss touted her own country's experience as a model. Faced with mounting injection drug use, Switzerland eventually went the route of supervised injection sites and opioid maintenance, including heroin maintenance.

"Our experience is that it works," she said. "The police protect the injection rooms from dealers. The four pillar policy [prevention, treatment, harm reduction, enforcement] has been broadly accepted by our citizens and the spread of HIV/AIDS is under control."

Even within the constraints imposed by the global drug prohibition regime, countries can still take action to mitigate the drug war's role in the spread of infectious disease, she said.

"It is possible for countries to adopt effective harm reduction measures within existing drug laws," Dreifuss argued. "The decriminalization of drug use is the first step, and the second step is to determine what type of market can drive out dealers. The war on drugs has failed to reduce supply or demand; let us replace prohibition with regulation and avoid jeopardizing public health and harm reduction policies with inefficient measures."

"Our message is that prohibitionist law enforcement has failed in its goals of eradicating drugs and protecting people's health," said Kazatchkine. "Illegal drugs have become cheaper and more available and HIV and other health risks have increased. Prohibitionist policies have been shifting the market to stronger drugs and led to a war on users with numerous human rights abuses, police harassment, violence, extortion. The fear of police and stigma is driving users underground and away from access to information, care, and medical services," he warned.

"One cannot improve health through war," he concluded. "This is an epidemic among people who inject that we can actually control. If we are to have a chance at reducing the transmission of AIDS, we need to open up and change our ways."

The Global Commission on Drugs has laid out the problem and showed us the path to fix it. Now, it is up to our political leadership to act accordingly, and it is up to us to ensure that it does.

New Report: Drug War is Fueling the Global HIV Pandemic
Kristen Gwynne | AlterNet June 26, 2012

A group of world leaders known as The Global Commission on Drug Policy have released a new report condemning the drug war as as a failure requiring urgent, sweeping reform to slow the spread of HIV infection. The report pins aggressive drug law enforcement as the “main reason” for the HIV/AIDS epidemics in certain regions and examines the disastrous consequences of using a criminal justice approach to solve a public health problem. By pushing drug users into environments where the risk of contracting HIV is high, the drug war has created a "policy distortion" whereby "evidence-based addiction treatment and public health measures have been downplayed or ignored," the commission says. Rather than provide addicts with help, the drug war actually raises barriers to HIV treatment and prevention.

According to the report, 33 million people have HIV globally. An estimated 16 million people inject illegal drugs, and about 3 million of them are living with HIV. What’s more, 25 percent of HIV positive patients will be incarcerated, and disproportionate incarceration is a key reason why HIV/AIDS is higher among the African American population

The commission outlines “How the Drug War Fuels the HIV Pandemic” with these bullet points:

• Fear of arrest drives persons who use drugs underground, away from HIV testing and HIV prevention services and into high risk environments.
• Restrictions on provision of sterile syringes to drug users result in increased syringe sharing.
• Prohibitions or restrictions on opioid substitution therapy and other evidence-based treatment result in untreated addiction and avoidable HIV risk behavior.
• Conditions and lack of HIV prevention measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks among incarcerated drug users.
• Disruptions of HIV antiretroviral therapy result in elevated HIV viral load and subsequent HIV transmission and increased antiretroviral resistance.
• Limited public funds are wasted on harmful and ineffective drug law enforcement efforts instead of being invested in proven HIV prevention strategies.

The Commission urges the United Nations to address these problems by decriminalizing drug use and adopting a public health approach to addiction. Solution-oriented, science-based reforms like clean needle exchanges, safe-injection sites, and doctor-administered addiction therapies are proven to reduce the rate of HIV infection, and are immediately necessary to disrupt the spread of HIV.

Read the report / AlterNet

World Leaders: We Cannot End AIDS Until We End War On Drugs
Steve Elliott Thursday, July 19, 2012 Virgin.jpg

2012 World AIDS Conference: Criminalization of Drug Use is Fueling the Global HIV/ AIDS Pandemic

Landmark Report Calls for Decriminalization and Expansion of Proven, Cost-Effective Solutions to Reduce HIV/AIDS

The International AIDS Conference, the world's largest gathering of HIV/AIDS experts and activists, will be held in the United States for the first time in 22 years on July 22-27, in Washington D.C. Distinguished world leaders and public health advocates are mobilizing with a clear message: Criminalization of drug use is fueling the global HIV/ AIDS pandemic.

Over the past two years, demands to implement evidence-based drug policy have grown louder, as exemplified by the Global Commission on Drug Policy's groundbreaking new report, launched on June 26th. The report explains how the global War On Drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual and injecting partners.

Research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force people who use drugs away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated. The risk of contamination is higher in countries that practice mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, where inmates don't have access to clean syringes and treatment - playing a major role in spreading the pandemic.

UNAIDS and WHO estimate that there are 34 million people worldwide living with HIV - and injection drug use accounts for one-third of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

How the Drug War fuels the HIV pandemic:

Fear of arrest drives persons who use drugs underground, away from HIV testing and HIV prevention services and into high-risk environments.

Restrictions on provision of sterile syringes to drug users result in increased syringe sharing.

Prohibitions or restrictions on opioid substitution therapy and other evidence-based treatment result in untreated addiction and avoidable HIV risk behavior.

Deficient conditions and lack of HIV prevention measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks among incarcerated drug users.

Disruptions of HIV antiretroviral therapy result in elevated HIV viral load and subsequent HIV transmission and increased antiretroviral resistance.

Limited public funds are wasted on harmful and ineffective drug law enforcement efforts instead of being invested in proven HIV prevention strategies.

Global Commission on Drug Policy.jpeg

Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, former director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, will present the report's findings at the 2012 International AIDS Conference, where he will address the failure of the War On Drugs and the causal links between criminalization of drug use the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"Based on the evidence highlighted in our report, we know that countries that treat addiction as a health issue are winning the fight against HIV," Dr. Kazatchikine said. "On the other hand, the countries that have ignored scientific evidence and continue to resist the implementation of evidence-based HIV prevention programs are suffering devastating consequences."

The Global Commission on Drug Policy is comprised of 22 world leaders, with seven former heads of state such as presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), Ruth Dreifuss (Swizterland), Cesar Gaviria (Colombia) and Alexander Kwasniewski (Poland), and influential personalities such as Sir Richard Branson, Paul Volcker, Louise Arbour and George Shultz, among others.

The Commission supports the decriminalization of drug use and a greater emphasis on public health approaches - including proven, cost-effective solutions to reduce HIV/AIDS like sterile syringe access, safer injection facilities, and prescription heroin programs.

Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy [PDF]
tokeofthetown

Exporting DEAmocracy
From dwr: This is part of our global contribution. The drug war has become the preferred foreign policy approach toward controlling much of the world. We export our drug war, our tactics, and, most of all, our DEA.
(Now with offices in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Canada, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles, Suriname, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos Islands, Haiti, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Thailand, Mongolia, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caldeonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis & Futuna, Western Samoa, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Malaysia, Kiribati, Nauru, Philippines, Burma, South Korea, Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Laos, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Greece, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Bahrain, Chad, Dijibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Russia, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Germany, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Western Sahara, Channel Islands, Ireland, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Azores, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Gibraltar, Portugal, Principality of Andorra, Spain, Spanish Enclaves (Ceuta & Melilla), Algeria, France, Monaco, Morocco, Tunisia, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Slovak Republic, Ukraine.)

With that kind of presence, we insure that the rest of the world follows our lead. And if they don't toe the line in the way we want to fight the drug war, we threaten to cut foreign aid, or in the case of Venezuela, which kicked out the DEA for spying, we accuse them of allowing drug trafficking.

Most countries are hesitant to buck the system, and would rather appear eager to participate

Phnom Penh: The National Authority for Combating Drugs has asked the US Embassy to create an office for the enforcement of the anti-drug law in Cambodia, in order to train the Cambodian anti-drugs authorities in different skills, and in order to help them to combat drugs worldwide.

Why can't we go back to exporting Big Macs and "Baywatch"? Sure, they may not have been very fulfilling, but at least they generally didn't kill you in the middle of the night.

Drug Lords Celebrate the Drug War at the UN! U2b

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DdC 2 years 12 weeks ago
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"You Can't Stop AIDS Without Ending the Drug War" [FEATURE]
by Phillip Smith, July 29, 2012

The XIX International AIDS Conference took place in Washington, DC, this week, bringing more than 20,000 scientists, activists, government officials, and journalists to assess the science and determine best practices for reducing the spread of the HIV virus. The US was able to host the conference for the first time in 22 years after it finally repealed a law denying people with HIV admission to the country. continued

stdw: 2012-protest-1.jpg
activists interrupt the conference opening session to protest the exclusion of drug users and sex workers
(video at droginreporter.hu/en)

Sex Workers, Drug Users Protest Stigma During AIDS Conference Jul 25 2012

A crimson wall made its way across Washington D.C., Tuesday as more than 1,000 sex workers, drug users and AIDS activists, many of them carrying red umbrellas to fend off the rain.

➜It’s pretty sad that Kevin Sabet can’t handle comments and has to have them disabled when he writes at Huffington Post

The DEA really is a lawless terrorist organization
How to the actions of the DEA in this story differ from those of criminal thugs?

Truck owner wants DEA to pay up after botched stingSo the owner of a trucking company with two trucks discovers after the fact that the DEA decided to use one of his trucks and drivers (without the owner’s permission) for a sting operation. continuedMexicans Pay in Blood for America's War on Drugs Jul 25 2012 The American press continues to report the body count in Mexico's "War on Drugs" at more than 50,000 dead.

Getting high off drug busts dwr
Good article at Philly.com: Law enforcement likes getting realliy high off drug busts

➜When Police Learn
Via Radley Balko: Dog shooting prompts police to change policies

Balko’s been in the forefront of getting the public aware of the outrageous amount of puppycide that takes place with law enforcement (and many of these killings are part of routine drug warrant enforcement). Here’s a rare example where public reaction has resulted in real policy change. continued

➜Should the FDA regulate recreational drugs? – a new article at Time by Maia Szalavitz. Regulation is the answer. Not sure that the FDA is.

➜Pot Legalization is Coming in Rolling Stone

➜South America Sees Drug Path to Legalization

Pelosi: It would be ‘really important’ to take on medical marijuana in Congress Jul 19 2012

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “It would be hard for anyone to agree with the fact that someone who has HIV/AIDS or has cancer and they find relief from pain in medicinal marijuana that should be something that should be a priority to raid on the part of the Justice Department. Going along with that, we need to address some of the penalties for any non-violent crime that are out there.”

►Kimmel, Frank, Pelosi, Branson, Criticize MMJ Raids: Obama Splains
►Money Grubbing Dung Worriers
►Forfeiture $quads

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