Joint letter to the Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health on protecting and promoting the health of people who use drugs during COVID-19

March 31, 2020

In collaboration with Harm Reduction International (HRI), the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), LBH Masyarakat, Release, and Rights Reporter Foundation, we have developed this letter to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health to provide guidance to states on how to promote and protect the right to health of people who use drugs in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 poses unprecedented challenges, creating new vulnerabilities and exacerbating existing ones. In this context, people who use drugs have unique needs and face unique risks due to criminalisation, stigma, underlying health issues, social marginalisation and higher economic and social vulnerabilities, including a lack of access to adequate housing and healthcare. While we welcome the joint statement prepared by the Special Rapporteur and other Special Procedures urging states to “remain steadfast in maintaining a human rights-based approach to regulating this pandemic”, we believe it is necessary to also provide firm guidelines on the protection of rights for people who use drugs during this time. Our letter outlines the recommendations we believe are essential to convey to states during this time.