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HIV AIDS Policy Law Rev. 2004 Dec;9(3):86-90.

Bangkok 2004. Drug control, human rights, and harm reduction in the age of AIDS.


In many countries, HIV prevalence among people who use illicit drugs is high. Yet many governments resist implementing effective HIV prevention measures, and drug users often lack access to care, treatment, and support, including for HIV/AIDS. Growing evidence indicates the dominant prohibitionist approach to illicit drugs is ineffective--and even counterproductive, blocking or undermining measures shown to reduce harms to drug users and to communities affected by open drug scenes. The growing debate over global drug control policy could shift us collectively away from the current, failed prescriptions to a more rational, pragmatic, and health-promoting framework of harm reduction. This article by Richard Elliott is an abridged version of a paper prepared for "Human Rights at the Margins: HIV/AIDS, Prisoners, Drug Users and the Law," a satellite meeting held in Bangkok on 9 July 2004, and organized by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit (India). The article briefly outlines the impact of these two different policy approaches, examines international law on drug control, discusses how harm reduction reflects a human rights-based approach to drugs, and assesses some strategies for reforming global policy on illicit drugs.

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