Turn the tide




Protection and promotion of human rights

' The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health'


  Artwork by Octavio Roth

Article 7. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) details the obligations of States to achieve the full realization of this right - the Prevention, treatment and control of epidemic.

It is essential that people who inject drugs and people who live in prisons access equitable, effective and ethical HIV prevention and treatment services.  An enabling legal and societal environment is key to ensure the protection of people who inject drugs as well as people in prisons. 

People who inject drugs

Essential HIV services for people who inject drugs, in particular, needle and syringe programmes, are too often not available, due to the absence of supportive legal framework or the absence of policies.  Punitive laws, policies and practices, including arbitrary detention and death penalty, constitute major barriers for people who inject drugs to access harm reduction services including OST, NSP, VCT and ARV.  Stigma, including in the health sector, prevent people who inject drugs to seek information, diagnosis and treatment. People should not be incarcerated because of the use of drugs but offered alternatives in the community.

People who live in prisons

Prisoners should have access to medical treatment and to preventive measures without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation. The right to health includes the right standards of healthcare at least equivalent to those available in the community. It also includes issues of hygiene, nutrition, freedom from physical and sexual violence or abuse and from inhuman or degrading treatment. Medical ethics should always guide all health interventions in closed settings. All treatments should be voluntary, with the informed consent of the patient and people living with HIV should not be segregated.

What is UNODC doing?

  • Advocating for the rights of people who inject drugs and for people in prisons to access human rights centered HIV services;
  • Supporting countries to address stigma in society and service providers towards people who inject drugs and in prisons;
  • Providing support to review and reform legal frameworks and policies;
  • Facilitating dialogues with parliamentarian and policy makers;
  • Supporting access of people who inject drugs to legal aid;
  • Promoting and supporting alternatives to imprisonment
  • Supporting countries to close compulsory drug detention centres and offer community based HIV and drug dependence treatment services

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