Turn the tide




Supportive legislative and law enforcement environment

Empirical evidence suggests that national/sub-national legislative environment can influence the HIV risks among people who inject drugs. Similarly, policing practices including arrests for drug/syringe possession, confiscation of syringes, and conducting surveillance at harm reduction service sites can also negatively impact their access to life saving services. 


While these law enforcement practices, in many countries, are in accordance with the laws on the book, research also indicates that in many other countries 'laws on the books' may not necessarily equate to 'laws on the streets', meaning law enforcement practices on the ground are often not in line with the legislation and policies, undermining health and human rights of people who use drugs and people living in prison settings.

However, there is increasing global recognition of the important role that national legislation and law enforcement has in protecting individuals and public health, especially in diverse and vulnerable communities. 

Towards that end, UNODC facilitates review and adaptation of national legislation and policies concerning narcotic drugs, criminal justice, prison management and HIV for improving equitable access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services, including commodities such as sterile needles and syringes, opioid substitution therapy and condoms for people who inject drugs and people in prisons settings.

In the context of injecting drug use, law enforcement officials can be vital actors in ensuring that people who inject drugs continue to access essential harm reduction and other health services.  Globally and regionally there are a number of successful examples of law enforcement assuming conducive roles in HIV responses.  Those examples show that law enforcement, criminal justice, public health and civil society can effectively complement each other's work.

Therefore, working hand-in-hand with law enforcement, as well as engaging and sensitizing them on the essential role they have in the HIV response is an important part of UNODC's  HIV programme. UNODC works with law enforcement authorities,  and their training academies to embark on a long-term strategy aiming at fostering environments that are conducive to evidence informed, public health oriented and human rights centred HIV service provision. 

For example, in 2013, UNODC organised a series of workshops for both senior law enforcement officers and key civil society organisations aiming connecting main actors of the response in communities. The argument is simple: improved partnerships at the community can result in better access to harm reduction and HIV services for people who inject drugs, as well as decreases in crime and increases in community trust of the police.

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