Stimulant drugs use, HIV and viral hepatitis in focus in Brazil
The meeting was held before the opening of the Internationl Symposium on Drugs
Brasilia, 11 September 2013 - About 35 representatives from government institutions, civil society organizations and academics who work in the areas of mental health, harm reduction and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)/HIV gathered on Monday in the Brazilian capital to discuss stimulant drug use in the country and the epidemiology of AIDS and viral hepatitis.
The director of the STD, AIDS and HIV Department of Brazil's Ministry of Health, Fábio Mesquita, opened the meeting explaining that the goal was to discuss the current scenario of the use of stimulant drugs in Brazil and the scientific data available, relating them to the epidemiology of AIDS and viral hepatitis, in order to establish priority actions to reduce vulnerability to STIs, HIV and viral hepatitis in this population segment.
The main points discussed and the recommendations of the Global Technical Meeting on HIV and stimulant drug use - organized in Brazil by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in partnership with the Ministry of Health, in January 2012 - were also presented to contribute to the reflection and to the development of these actions. "People who use drugs are crucial for the course of the AIDS epidemic in Brazil", said Mesquita.
During the meeting, the UNODC'S HIV/AIDS senior expert, Dr Fabienne Hariga, said that "one of the major issues is to remove the barriers for drug users to access HIV services, which means to work also with law enforcement agencies and, most importantly, to involve the population of drug users in the response, including through peer based interventions. Drug users and professionals have expertise that are complementary and are both needed for an effective response".
Hariga also noted that harm reduction is not limited to needle and syringe programmes. The World Health Organization, the UNODC and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have defined a comprehensive package of nine interventions, detailed in a document endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that provides technical guidance to countries on setting targets for scaling up towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care for injecting drug users.
International Symposium on Drugs: From Coercion to Cohesion
The meeting on Monday was organized as a pre-activity of the International Symposium on Drugs: from Coercion to Cohesion, held this week in Brasilia. The Coordinator of the Technical Department of Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs of the Ministry of Health, Roberto Tykanori, explained that the document published in 2010 by UNODC, From Coercion to Cohesion: Treating drug dependence through health care, not punishment, has contributed with technical inputs to the discussions proposed by the Symposium.
According to him, the objective of the Symposium is to promote the discussion about drug policies among people who do not normally participate in this dialogue. That way, it will be possible to expand the debate on this subject that has been gaining increasing attention from Brazilian media, while highlighting successful experiences focused on promoting social cohesion already implemented in other countries. One of the topics that was discussed at the Symposium is precisely the role of the media regarding the stigma associated with drug users and the debate on changes in public policy about drugs.
"We need to adjust our policies in order to have more consistency in all of our actions", added Tykanori, underlining the importance that various areas within the Ministry of Health work together with other organisms in order to make a real impact on the HIV epidemic.
Technical guide for countries to set targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care for injecting drug users (in English)