Pubdate: Sat, 7 Aug 2010
Source: Chilliwack Progress (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 The Chilliwack Progress
Author: Margaret Evans
Referenced: The Vienna Declaration
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


"The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably
by the Prohibition Law. Nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws that cannot be
enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in
this country is closely connected with this."

Albert Einstein's words, written in 'My First Impressions of the USA'
in 1921, are still in play. In fact, the clear connection between
prohibition laws, the increase in crime and their impact on the health
and safety of society were a driving force at last month's
International AIDS 2010 Convention held in Vienna where 19,300 health
care workers, researchers, scientists, government and NGO officials
and many others representing 197 countries gathered.

Many advances in treating HIV/AIDS have been made in the past decade
and while in some countries the rate of infection has levelled off, it
has increased in others. Globally in 2007 there were 33 million people
living with AIDS of which half were women. Antiretroviral treatments
are making major inroads and more recently a microbicide gel to
protect women has shown enormous promise against contracting HIV.

But in many countries the criminalization of drug users has led to
devastating consequences such as helping to enrich organized crime,
escalating violence in communities and fuelling the HIV epidemic.
Given those facts, AIDS2010 formulated the Vienna Declaration calling
for a full policy reorientation given that decades of research show
that the so-called 'war on drugs' has failed and there is no evidence
that harsher law enforcement policies meaningfully reduce the
prevalence of drug use.

"Many of us in AIDS research and care confront the devastating impacts
of misguided drug policies every day," said AIDS 2010 chair Dr. Julio
Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society and director of
the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. "These policies fuel the
AIDS epidemic and result in violence, increased crime rates and
destabilization of entire states - yet there is no evidence they have
reduced rates of drug use or drug supply. As scientists we are
committed to raising our collective voice to promote evidence-based
approaches to illicit drug policy that start by recognizing that
addiction is a medical condition, not a crime."

Well put, not that Prime Minister Harper is listening given his
draconian approach in the current federal anti-drug strategy. Montaner
was openly critical in his closing address of the federal government
for "punching well below its weight" in funding international efforts
to fight HIV/AIDS.

"I would also like to have a special word of recognition for the Prime
Minister of Canada, Mr. Steven Harper, and his Health Minister Leona
Aglukkaq for demonstrating yet again their incredible ability to take
credit where none is due," said Montaner.

Earlier in July the federal government announced $88 million for
HIV/AIDS research, an amount considered insufficient and disappointing
by many AIDS research groups.

Leading scientific and health policy organizations and notable
individuals including Nobel laureate Dr. James Orbinski and Stephen
Lewis, former special envoy to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have
joined thousands in endorsing the Vienna Declaration which calls for a
redirection of vast financial resources from current drug policies to
evidence-based regulation, prevention, treatment and harm reduction.

"The current approach to drug policy is ineffective because it
neglects proven and evidence-based interventions while pouring a
massive amount of public funds and human resources into expensive and
futile enforcement measures," said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the
International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and clinical associate
professor at UBC. "It's time to accept that the war on drugs has
failed and create drug policies that can meaningfully protect
community health and safety."

No doubt. 
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