On International Overdose Awareness Day, we, as people who use drugs from around the world, demand an end to the death and devastation wrought by the overdose epidemic. Awareness is nothing without concerted political action.
Our very lives, and the lives of those we love, are the human cost of this deadly war on drugs. All too often, drugs themselves are blamed for claiming so many lives. In reality, we should lay the blame on the architects of the disastrous drug war, the lack of political will to find real solutions, and the societal apathy generated by decades of stigma and discrimination. The combined cost of all this is proving too brutal to bear. Today, as we do every other day, drug user unions and networks call for action.
Worldwide, there were 585,000 drug-related deaths in 2017, and over 70,000 people lost their lives in the US. In Canada, the rate of opioid-related deaths increased from 3,000 in 2016 to nearly 4,000 in 2017. It is no overstatement to declare that we who use drugs are struggling to survive through this epidemic of death. Although preliminary figures showed a very small decline in US deaths in 2018, more Americans still died of a drug overdose that year than were killed during the entire Vietnam War. And yet governments continue to persecute and punish people who use drugs - creating the conditions that drive these tolls - while responding to our misery with lethargy, if at all.
Stigma and discrimination lie at the heart of this inaction. This silence in the face of our deaths, and the deaths of those we love, is a manifestation of the rampant hate and prejudice against our communities.
After the close of the 2019 IAS Conference on HIV Science in Mexico City last month, global community-led networks joined forces with Mexican and Latin American advocates to continue planning for the upcoming HIV2020 Conference.
HIV2020: Community Reclaiming the Response, will be an alternative convening for individuals who are unable or unwilling to enter the United States to attend the 2020 International AIDS Conference in San Francisco/Oakland next year. Advocates recommended against bringing the International AIDS Conference to the U.S.A. given the Trump administration’s discriminatory immigration laws, detention and family separation policies, and the country’s deteriorating human rights conditions. HIV2020 will reaffirm the critical role communities play in the HIV response worldwide while shining a spot light on the importance of human rights. Advocates will also use HIV2020 as an opportunity to discuss the specific challenges facing people living with and affected by HIV in Mexico and in the region.
In an extraordinary show of solidarity, an international group of people living with HIV, gay and bisexual men, people who use drugs, sex workers, transgender people, youth, and indigenous advocates worked together to design an event structure specifically tailored to the needs of frontline community members. Advocates named six themes around which they will determine a program for HIV2020, including:
The INPUD Secretariat would like to announce the retirement of our Office and Project Manager, Terry White.
Terry started working with INPUD in 2014, and has a long history of community mobilisation and organisational development. In 1993, he co-founded the UK Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS and in 1995 launched Positive Nation, a magazine aimed at people living with the HIV.
In the early 2000s, Terry worked with the All-Ukrainian Network PLWHIV, the Russian Association of PLWHIV and Tochka Opory, an all-Ukrainian MSM organisation. On leaving Ukraine in 2013, he provided consultancy for the foundation of the Middle East and North African Community Advisory Board, and the M-Coalition, an MSM coalition based in Beirut. Terry holds an MSc in Organisational Management from the University of Bristol.
Terry is the longest serving member of staff at the Secretariat based, and has contributed enormously to the organisation over the years. We send him our very best wishes for his well-deserved retirement. We would like to publicly thank Terry for everything he has brought to the organisation, the network, and the movement. Thank you, Terry!
In Terry’s own words:
“I am excited about my impending retirement and that I can take advantage of it while I am fit enough. It’s time to say goodbye to INPUD, where I have been working since February 2014.
It’s been an interesting five years with many extraordinary ups and downs! It has been a long five years, which have seen many challenges and changes, and INPUD has survived and been strengthened by them.
The Asian Network of People who Use Drugs and the International Network of People who Use Drugs strongly condemn recent raids on the offices and homes of Anand Grover and Indira Jaising of the Lawyers Collective, India. These attacks are emblematic of a broader trend of intimidation, harassment and abuse of power against civil society organisations and advocates who dare to speak out. Democratic space for human rights activism is shrinking, and this cannot continue unchallenged.
On Thursday 11th July 2019, India’s Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI) raided the homes and offices of Anand Grover and Indira Jaising under the pretext of alleged violation of rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (2010), widely criticised as a tool to limit and control civil society. The Bar Association of India has condemned the CBI raids as ‘excessive, disproportionate and unjustified’.
Today is the International Day to remember our loved ones who have died as a result of the so-called war on drugs. They have died as a result of their unnecessary criminalisation; they have died as a result of prohibition. It is criminalisation and prohibition that make drugs so dangerous. It is the society in which we live that shows such callous indifference to the deaths of so many.
Thousands of people in the last year have been murdered as a result of the war on people who use drugs. They have been killed in extrajudicial killings; they have been executed; they have died as a result of blood-borne infections; they have died unnecessarily from overdose. Our governments – the government in the UK, and governments in almost every jurisdiction in the world – seem entirely indifferent to these countless deaths, to the suffering of the drug using community, their families, their loved ones. Every one of these deaths is a tragedy, and is an avoidable tragedy.
As a result of criminalisation, drugs are produced in the black market, resulting in people who use heroin in the UK, and internationally, dying from heroin contaminated with anthrax, heroin contaminated with fentanyl, and with carfentanyl. Due to prohibition, and due to politicians’ failure to adopt comprehensive harm reduction, drug consumption rooms, and drug testing, there is simply no possibility to ensure the content of drugs.