Statements, Events, Announcements, Presentations

  • November 2020 Announcement: G Charanjit Sharma has been requested to speak (opening remark) as community rep in the recent GPC ministerial meeting.    
  •  The Global HIV Prevention Coalition was established in October 2017, with the aim " to strengthen and sustain political commitment for primary prevention by setting a common agenda among United Nations Member States, donors, civil society organizations and implementers. With countries and communities at the centre, the GPC seeks to ensure accountability for delivering prevention services at scale in order to achieve the targets (HIV reductions and to End AIDs by 2030).                                                                                                                     

GPC Opening remarks – Charan Sharma

Good afternoon from Delhi, Namaste!

Mr/Ms Chairman, honourable Minister of health, respected Executive Director of UNAIDS and Global Fund, distinguish delegates, ladies and gentlemen and most importantly my peers of people who use drugs and other key population!

It is indeed a remarkable moment for the community of PWID to have the privilege and opportunity to share few words for this important meeting today – believe me this happens very rarely to be amongst the important personalities for an opening remark for a PWID rep – truly and sincerely thank GPC for this.    

I have been part of the NACO program since 2000 but on the other side of the fence, receiving NSP and OST. Prevention strategies have evolved over the years as patterns and usage of drugs has change so as the need to address it. Besides the traditional implementation social media is also playing an important role in an attempt reach the last mile – leave no one behind or 90:90:90.

No doubt treatment as prevention is effective strategy and we are looking forward to community based test and treat, self-testing, sporadic increase in mobile van providing OST (Buprenorphine/Methadone), newer ways to increase access to ART and care. The NACO has done commendable efforts of reaching out to ensure care support treatment and harm reduction services are accessible and uninterrupted leading to controlling and bringing down the prevalence of HIV among PWID and other KPs. The community voice and participation has been key to the success of the response in India, and we need to continue to strengthen it and will continue to do so to strengthen the national response.

Said that, let me share something interesting; number of PWID/PWUD are increasing so as the countries. 179 of 206 countries and territories reported of PWID estimate of 15.6 million (31 new compared to 2008 – so it was 148 about 12 years back). Of that 17.8% HIV & 52.3% HCV with 58% history of incarceration.

PWID, already stigmatized and discriminated population COVID19 added another layer compounding the existing situation more challenging. The community along with the National AIDS Control program, UNAIDS and other development partners ensured essential services are delivered to the community - ART, OST, NSEP, Naloxone even at the door step. The  State Drug User forums continued to  provide essential harm reduction services during this period.  With multi month dispensing of ART and take home doses of OST uninterrupted services were ensured. It is important to mention that the role of the community has been exemplary in these difficult times.

Widespread criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs continues. It’s extremely difficult to get HIV and hepatitis C treatment to people when they are incarcerated, detained or hiding from services for fear of arrest – existing policies which hinders needs urgent DETOXIFICATION for friendlier new policies. 

We need to urgently take a call to decriminalise drug use for personal consumption. How can we end AIDS or prevent Hep C when we can’t get HIV and Hep C treatment to the people who need it most? We can’t end HIV, Hep C until we scale up harm reduction and recognized community contribution. Without doubt, we witness drastic change when community is involved. The action, ownership, commitment, enthusiasm is explicitly evident that PWIDs are the frontline responders even before COVID 19, during COVID 19 and will continues to do so.

We need to seriously emphasis on meaningful engagement of PWID in programs at local, state, national, regional and global level to make more impact. Network/forum should be funded alongside with harm reduction program. Political commitment and domestic funding are crucial for HIV prevention program, we no longer only depend on GF or other donor institution. I would sincerely request and urge UNAIDS, GF, national HIV program to fund and support networks of PWID at local, state, national, regional and globally – lesson learnt during COVID. We are there to walk hand in hand to address the issues and concerns collectively and for this we need to draw a realistic plan for better corroboration & collaboration – you will not be disappointed.   

There is no debate required that harm reduction certainly saves lives. I rest my case to the learned audience to decide!