10 June, 2021

This statement was published jointly on 10 June, 2021 by Harm Reduction International and INPUD.


Ongoing discussions, including among key international donors, have raised concerns within Harm Reduction International and the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) about the proposed inclusion of mental health within the harm reduction package and more generally about conflating drug use and mental health. This paper aims to stimulate and clarify the discussion around this.

Although there are people who use drugs who may experience mental health issues, drug use and drug dependency itself is not a mental health condition. The concerning conflation of drug use and dependency with mental health issues is inaccurate, stigmatising and might have long term harmful consequences to the community, including removing the agency and capacity of people who use drugs to make decisions about their own bodies and lives. It could reduce resources available for harm reduction and community-led services, and lead to deprioritizing evidence-based, lifesaving public health interventions in national and international guidelines. A lack of political will and insufficient funding are major barriers to implementing harm reduction at scale, and this conflation could seriously disrupt availability, access and delivery of essential services.

Despite there being virtually no data to support it, the notion that drug “addiction” is a brain disease provides an attractive narrative that is simple and reassuring. This theory contributes to unrealistic, costly, and harmful drug policies, and removes any consideration of the role of socioeconomic factors such as poverty, homelessness, and race. It also ignores the stigmatising effect of the drug “addiction” construct.

INPUD is excited to share our 2020 Annual Report

This report is a celebration of the incredible accomplishments of our network and the global community of people who use drugs over this past year. Despite facing down unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing funding spaces and reactionary pushback on human rights, peers across the world stepped up in incredible and inspiring ways. INPUD's work in 2020 was some of our most impactful yet, and we are so grateful to all of our members, donors and supporters who helped us achieve this incredible work. 

Some of the highlights in our report include:

  • A summary of HIV2020 Online, a groundbreaking virtual conference which centered key population and community voices at the center of the agenda. 
  • INPUD's COVID-19 response and advocacy, including summaries of our peer-led research, small grants program and #PeersInThePandemic online campaign.
  • Technical support provided by INPUD to growing networks of people who use drugs across the world. 
  • Global advocacy at the United Nations, Global Fund and other international forums.
  • INPUD publications from 2020, including our Taking Back What's Ours documentary series. 
  • Achievements by regional and national networks of people who use drugs.

Thank you again to the global community of drug user advocates who make all of INPUD's work possible. 

Read INPUD's 2020 Annual Report here. 

The second phase of the Global Fund COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM) is now underway. The C19RM Guidelines specifically call for consultations with communities, key populations and civil society, particularly those most severely affected by COVID-19. Furthermore, countries must consult with key populations and communities, including both CCM and non-CCM representatives. A minimum of 30% of the C19RM funding request should be for key populations and community responses. 

To help support key population-led organisations in engaging and contributing to the preparation of funding requests for C19RM, INPUD has developed this community consultation guide containing key information and advice for navigating the Global Fund process. Here you will find instructions for organising and documenting community consultations, which are key in the development of submissions to the C19RM, and strategies for following up with CCM representatives. The guide also comes with an accompanying powerpoint slide which can be used by organisations to easily outline this process. 



Access the INPUD C19RM Community Consultation Guide Here.

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The United Nations General Assembly 2021 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS (HLM) will take place from 8-10 June 2021. The goal of the HLM is to draft a Political Declaration, agreed upon by all UN member states, which will serve as the primary point of reference for communities and advocates to hold governments accountable in the HIV response. This kind of meeting only occurs, at minimum, once every five years, and thus it is critically important for communities, Key Population networks and civil society to engage in the HLM process. 

For a brief overview of why the HLM is an important opportunity for people who use drugs to advance our interests, check out this short video with INPUD's Executive Director, Judy Chang

INPUD is a member of the Multi-Stakeholder Task Team for the HLM and is heavily involved in community and civil society engagement efforts. We have created this web page to serve as a hub of information and resources on the HLM for INPUD members and, drug user advocates and Key Population Networks. Check back here for the most recent updates on the HLM and how you and/or your organisation can influence the outcomes.