On 18 August 2009, the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia conducted a consultative meeting "Drug Policy and Public Health" with national stakeholders of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The purpose of the meeting was to initiate a debate and a process of reviewing the national drug control policy, programme and strategy regarding their effectiveness and impact on public health with focus on drug use, HIV and related conditions among drug users and prison inmates. This meeting was the first of four planned meetings as agreed between representatives of the Government of Uzbekistan, UNODC and UNAIDS. The series of consultative meetings will provide a platform for the discussion of international and national drug control policies and policies on HIV prevention and treatment among vulnerable groups. More than 30 participants representing the Parliament, Ministries of Health, Justice, Interior, and the Prosecutor General's Office, national and international NGOs, UN and other international and bilateral organizations took part in the meeting. The meeting was chaired and facilitated by Dr. Nina Kerimi, UNODC Regional Project Coordinator with support of Dr. Tatiana Shoumilina, UNAIDS Country Coordinator in Uzbekistan. There were a number of presentations including those made by Dr. Maysara Gazieva, National AIDS Centre, Ms. Saodat Jumanova, National Information and Analytical Centre on Drugs Control, Dr.Tatiana Shoumilina, UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Mr. Geoffrey Monaghan, HIV/AIDS Advisor from UNODC Russia Country Office, Dr. Sergii Dvoryak, Director of Ukrainian Institute for Public Health Policy Research, and Dr. Kamran Niaz, UNODC Regional Advisor on Epidemiology and Treatment of Drug Dependence.
While general issues in international and national drug control policies were discussed and experiences of industrialized and developing countries exchanged, the focus of the debate inevitably revolved around IDUs' access to opioid substitution treatment. Despite convincing evidence of OST's effectiveness in HIV prevention and as a treatment method of drug dependence, national counterparts were reluctant to accept the necessity of resuming an OST programme in Uzbekistan. Their principal argument was that the Government' decision to halt the OST pilot project in Tashkent was taken only a short time ago and it is too early to start discussing OST's re-introduction.
On a more positive note, national counterparts were quite attentive to the substance of presentations made by the UN and agreed that evaluation techniques for the national drug control programme should be further elaborated. Additionally, an idea for updating the legal framework for the access of drug dependent people to evidence-based treatment including OST was expressed by some participants with UNODC providing technical support in drafting the national law on narcological assistance. The meeting concluded with the decision to follow the previously agreed pattern, namely, to disseminate the country report on legislation analysis among ministries and other interested parties and discuss it topic by topic, to decide which amendments to the law should be considered as a matter of priority. This is not to preclude carrying on technical meetings/workshops that would cover some of the issues related to drugs-prisons-HIV.