XVIII International AIDS Conference


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HIV, drug policy and human rights in Latin America

G. Touze1, P. Cymerman2, M. Vitarelli2

1Intercambios Asociacion Civil, Board of Direction, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2Intercambios Asociacion Civil, Advocacy Department, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Issues: Drug users' vulnerability in Latin America is related to frequent incarceration, violence, stigmatization, and poor association with social and healthcare resources. Social, cultural, economic, and political factors affect drug users' access to prevention, treatment, care, and other social services. The “war on drugs” influences regional drug policies and governments do not always employ scientific evidence and best practices. Therefore, drug policies may contribute to the spread of HIV and to the failure of HIV treatment.
Description: The Drug Policy Reform Project aims to consolidate alternative drug policies focused on health and human rights in Latin America. Specific goals include thorough information dissemination, advocacy efforts towards changes in legislation, and the consolidation of a Latin American platform to co-ordinate governmental and non-governmental actions. Three main strategies are being developed since 2008: public education related to drug policy and human rights; establishment of advocacy groups focused on legislative reforms; and cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations and activists. To date, important steps have been made regarding drug policy and legislation in Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay.
Lessons learned: Reducing drug related harm means not only sound public health policies but needs a reform of drug policies as well, and the implementation of broad public policies aiming to ameliorate the untoward consequences of dire poverty, discrimination and criminalization. Weak public healthcare systems must be strengthened in order to improve their capacity to respond to drug related health problems, and these efforts must be articulated with community-based organizations. Alliances with regional partners have improved our advocacy capacity.
Next steps: Efforts like the Latin American Conference on Drug Policy, being launched in Buenos Aires in 2009, have demonstrated to be a powerful tool to raise awareness and impact on public opinion, but they must be accompanied by permanent training and exchange opportunities.

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