HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html US Cash Threat to AIDS War
Pubdate: Sun, 06 Feb 2005
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2005 The Observer
Author: Martin Bright, Home Affairs Editor, The Observer
Cited: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Cited: Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Cited: Transform Drug Policy Foundation
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


The United Nations agency responsible for the global fight against drugs 
has been forced to abandon its campaign to reduce Aids infection by giving 
clean needles to heroin addicts after threats by America to end its 
funding, The Observer can reveal.

The Bush administration opposes any programme that appears to condone the 
continued use of drugs, and wants the UN to seek abstention by users, 
combined with an end to narcotics production.

Drug experts believe that if the UN shelved its so-called 'harm reduction' 
strategy in favour of an outright war on drugs, it could contribute to a 
rise in the rate of infection with HIV/Aids through shared needles and 
unsafe sex, as well as increasing the number of addicts.

Correspondence seen by The Observer shows that on 10 November 2004, Antonio 
Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and 
Crime (UNODC) held a meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State Robert 
Charles to discuss the Bush administration's concerns about the direction 
the UN was taking.

A leaked letter sent by Costa the next day shows him agreeing to demands to 
expunge references about harm reduction from UNODC literature and statements.

'On the the general issue of "harm reduction", I share your concern. Under 
the guise of "harm reduction", there are people working disingenuously to 
alter the world's opposition to drugs. These people can misuse our 
well-intentioned statements for their own agenda, and this we cannot allow.

'Accordingly, as we discussed in our meeting, we are reviewing all our 
statements, both printed and electronic, and will be even more vigilant in 
the future.'

Costa goes on to clarify the UN agency's position on needle exchanges, 
where addicts are given clean injecting equipment to minimise the risk of 
infection from HIV and and hepatitis. In words that have caused alarm among 
drug treatment experts, Costa wrote: 'We neither endorse needle exchanges 
as a solution for drug abuse, nor support public statements advocating such 

The issue will come to head at next month's meeting in Vienna of the 
Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN's central policy-making body on drugs.

Danny Kushlick, director of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation said: 'The 
evidence for the success of harm reduction in reducing HIV and AIDS among 
injecting drug users is unquestioned. It has taken decades to build harm 
reduction into the core of international drug programmes and this kind of 
intervention has the potential to severely undermine initiatives that have 
already saved the lives of millions of people.'

The shift in policy will have serious implications for Britain, which 
remains committed to the philosophy of harm reduction domestically and 
through aid programmes funded by the Department for International Development. 
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