Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.


The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

BC AIDS group endorses decriminalizing drug users

The Vienna Declaration, announced at the XVIII International AIDS Conference now under way, is a call for the decriminalization of drug users “as a matter of urgent international significance.” And the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is one of its key sponsors.

Among the points made by the Declaration:

In response to the health and social harms of illegal drugs, a large international drug prohibition regime has been developed under the umbrella of the United Nations.

Decades of research provide a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of the global “War on Drugs” and, as thousands of individuals gather in Vienna at the XVIII International AIDS Conference, the international scientific community calls for an acknowledgement of the limits and harms of drug prohibition, and for drug policy reform to remove barriers to effective HIV prevention, treatment and care.

The evidence that law enforcement has failed to prevent the availability of illegal drugs, in communities where there is demand, is now unambiguous. Over the last several decades, national and international drug surveillance systems have demonstrated a general pattern of falling drug prices and increasing drug purity—despite massive investments in drug law enforcement.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that increasing the ferocity of law enforcement meaningfully reduces the prevalence of drug use. The data also clearly demonstrate that the number of countries in which people inject illegal drugs is growing, with women and children becoming increasingly affected.6

Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, injection drug use accounts for approximately one in three new cases of HIV. In some areas where HIV is spreading most rapidly, such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, HIV prevalence can be as high as 70% among people who inject drugs, and in some areas more than 80% of all HIV cases are among this group.

The BC-CFE has already won praise at the conference for its “Treatment 2.0” for HIV/AIDS.

But the head of BC-CFE, Dr. Julio Montaner, criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper's refusal to address the conference, and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq for being "barely visible" at the conference. Montaner also said:

“As UNAIDS leads countries around the world to deepen their commitment to the made-in-B.C. concept of treatment as prevention, the government of Canada is standing on the sidelines. We need Canada to reflect the global commitment to treatment as prevention, and take a leadership role in this important initiative.”

On the Declaration’s blog, Dr. Montaner wrote: “...this wealth of evidence we have gathered over the last couple of decades [is] being systematically neglected and ignored in favor of a highly prevalent ideologically driven war on drugs.”

Among the signatories of the Declaration: Stephen Lewis, Nobel prizewinner Dr. James Orbinski of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, two retired chiefs of police, and former presidents of Brazil and Mexico.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus