New Malaysia drug dependence treatment efforts lauded
24th IFNGO World Conference
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), 18 November 2011 - It is time to put health and human rights at the centre of drug control and demand reduction efforts in Asia. This was the main message emerging from the 24th
World Conference of the International Federation of Non-Government Organisations for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse.
The event was opened by the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, His Excellency The Honourable Tan Sri Dato' Haji Muhyiddin Bin Mohhammed Yassin. The Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 8-11 November.
"While the latest available data indicate that "containment" of the global drug problem is working and that drug use has essentially stabilised across the world, there are warning signs that drug production and trafficking in East and South East Asia are on the increase," said Mr Gary Lewis, Regional Representative of UNODC, speaking at the start of the event. "However, not enough is being done on the prevention of drug use in the first place and people who become dependent have limited access to effective treatment," Lewis stated.
Mr Lewis also pointed out that, according to government reports, there are over 300,000 people detained in some 1,000 compulsory centres in East and South-East Asia. Such centres constitute a complex phenomenon as well as a challenge with serious public health, human rights and rule of law implications. They often exhibit high levels of relapse among clients. UNODC considers drug dependence a chronic relapsing health condition which should be dealt within the health sector and be based on scientific evidence as well as each individual's treatment needs.
However, there is evidence of change in the region - starting in Malaysia. Recognition of the high relapse rates was the turning point for a major change in the way which the Government of Malaysia is now providing drug dependence treatment to people who need it.
Under the leadership of Puan Sri Dato' Zuraidah, the Director General of the National Anti-Drugs Agency and under the Government's Transformation Programme, a transformation of compulsory centres into open access "Cure & Care 1Malaysia Clinics" has been taking place since 2010. "It is not enough to tell people to stop using drugs if they are unwilling or unable to do so for whatever reason," she says.
"These people need our help and that is the objective of the Cure & Care Clinics," said Dato' Zuraidah. "The Clinics offer a range of treatment options, along with vocational skills building and other related services that respond to the individual needs of the client."
A visit to the Cure and Care Clinic in Chow Kit area of Kuala Lumpur enabled Mr. Lewis and other conference delegates to observe the service provision first hand and to interact with the clients. Other countries in the region are exploring alternatives to the compulsory centre approach as well as lessons learned following transformation of the compulsory centres into Cure and Care Clinics in Malaysia.
Treatment for drug dependence is an integral component of a comprehensive health care provision for people who use drugs.
The Conference delegates also discussed the reasons for the current level of low coverage of HIV prevention, treatment and care services for people who inject drugs and how these life saving services can be brought to scale.
Collective efforts by governments, NGOs and the affected community of people who use drugs were seen as critical to paving the way to "Getting to Zero - zero new HIV infections among people who use drugs - by 2015 in Asia.