Over the last several years, INPUD has engaged in global advocacy with the WHO and UNODC regarding the development of the 'International Standards on Drug Use Disorders' ("The Standards"). While recognising the clear need for international guidelines on drug dependence and treatment, such a document can produce more harm than good if it does not include community perspectives, promotes an over-medicalised approach and perpetuates harmful, stigmatising ideas about people who use drugs.
This case study tells the story of how INPUD and our global peer community successfully challenged and changed the Standards to reflect a more humane and scientifically accurate approach that can serve as an effective accountability mechanism in the monitoring of national drug treatment programmes, particularly in countries where human rights abuses in treatment centres are common.
In January 2018 INPUD was asked by the WHO to provide input into the draft Standards, which was already in the final stages before being sent out for in-country field-testing. Upon review it was evident the Standards were extremely problematic, and were heavily shaped by the agenda of the Russian Federation and United States of America. INPUD's review of this initial draft, which were identified in an open letter signed by 188 community and civil society organisations, laid out three major concerns:
The International Network of People who Use Drugs and Harm Reduction International welcome the Global Fund Strategy Framework, which puts people and communities at the centre by maximising health equity, gender equality, human rights, people-centred public health and community leadership and engagement. As the largest donor for harm reduction in low-and middle-income (LMI) countries, the Global Fund is pivotal to efforts to end AIDS among people who use drugs by 2030. With a 95% funding gap for harm reduction in LMI countries and with people who use drugs stigmatised, criminalised and discriminated against in a majority of countries, it is critical that the new Global Fund strategy reflects on what needs to change, articulatesthe strategic shifts needed to leave no-one behind and defines how its new objectives will be translated into action. We call on the Global Fund Board to consider the following seven areas when writing the strategy narrative.
1. Meaningfully engage communities, including people who use drugs, in all Global Fund programmes and processes at all levels.
On July 21st, International Drug Users' Remembrance Day INPUD, GNP+ and UNAIDS will be running an online campaign called #MoreThan over social media. Throughout the day we will be posting photos and memories of the people and loved ones in our communities whose lives were unjustly cut short due to criminalisation, discrimination and stigmatisation. The campaign will highlight that we are all “More Than” a casualty of the drug war or any other label that denies our inherent humanity. We are all individuals with multiple identities, interests, passions and dreams.
To commemorate and honor the diversity of their lives, we will post photos of our loved ones on social media highlighting some of the many things that made them #MoreThan a casualty of the drug war. We encourage all who have someone they would like to remember to participate in the #MoreThan campaign. To do so, all you will need to do is post a photo of someone you would like to share over social media - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram - and include #MoreThan in the post, along with a short description of who the person was. You could include what they were passionate about, a dream they had, something kind people always said about them, anything positive that you feel like people should know about.
July 21st is International Drug Users' Remembrance Day, where we take time to remember the people whose lives were unjustly cut short due to the criminalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs. To use, they were #MoreThan a casualty; they were our family, friends, peers and loved ones.
To honor their memory on this day, INPUD has partnered with UNAIDS and GNP+ for both a social media campaign and webinar to be held on July 21st, 2021.
'No More Loss' is a webinar discussing the interventions necessary to eliminate stigma and discrimination faced by people who use drugs, and how this work is being conducted through the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate All Forms of HIV+ Related Stigma and Discrimination. The panel will include peer speakers and representatives from UN agencies.
The webinar will be held on July 21st at 16:00 CEST (10:00 EST) and will be in English, with live translation available in French, Russian and Spanish.
Link to register: bit.ly/2UKTP8V
Opening Remarks: Suki Beavers, Director, Gender Equality, Human Rights and Community Engagement, UNAIDS
Judy Chang, Executive Director, INPUD
Ernesto Cortes, Secretario, LANPUD
John Kimani, Programmes Coordinator, KeNPUD
Annette Verster, Technical Officer, World Health Organization
Fariba Soltani, Chief of HIV/AIDS Section & Global Coordinator for HIV/AIDS, UNODC
Chair/Closing remarks: Louise Beale Vincent, Executive Director, Urban Survivors Union
A Q&A with all participants will take place during the last 30 minutes of the webinar.
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.