Law Enforcement Officials Better Informed and Equipped in Reaching Out to People Who Inject Drugs

Globally, effective and considered policing approaches are of vital importance in the response to HIV. Punitive policies and harsh implementation practices constitute major barriers for key populations, including people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people, to access effective HIV prevention and treatment services.

At the same time, individual law enforcement (LE) officials can be at risk of HIV acquisition as well, due to their occupation, where they serve as the front line in the community in fighting crime and illicit drugs. Evidence from many countries around the world indicates that LE officials do not always have adequate knowledge about HIV and AIDS, which results in misconceptions about their own HIV risk as well as the increasing levels of stigmatization and discrimination towards people considered more at risk of HIV. Education and awareness raising trainings can address such misconceptions, encourage attitudinal change and improve the ability of the police to collaboratively respond to HIV as part of a multi-sectoral approach.

In 2014, UNODC developed a training manual for law enforcement officials on HIV services forpeople who inject drugs (, that provides police of all ranks with the essential knowledge and skills to both protect themselves and provide an enabling environment that enhances the collective health of the community. The manual, with its simple modular structure, is meant to support the police academies in the design and delivery of a training curriculum - resulting in law enforcement officials, at all levels, to be better informed and equipped to grasp the unique opportunities their work represents in reaching out to people who inject drugs, with whom they interact with on a daily basis.

Subsequently, a number of trainings and workshops have been held throughout Central Asia, in Pakistan, Moldova and Ukraine. In June 2015, a regional consultative workshop for the lecturers/instructors of the police academies on the "Role of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in public health: The case of harm reduction and HIV prevention programmes among people who inject drugs (PWID)" took place in Almaty on the premises of the Inter-Agency Counter-narcotics Training Centre of the Almaty Academy of Ministry of Interior (MoI) of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Sixteen officers representing the police academies and institutions from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan participated.

From the very beginning, the workshop has attracted considerable interest among the trainees, while significantly increasing the awareness of the participants on HIV prevention, treatment and care among the general population and among key groups, workplace safety and security, the critical role of LE in the national HIV response and the importance of the multi-sectoral approaches in the end of the workshop. At the same time, the participants improved their understanding of the course content and supported the idea of adapting the training manual to the national contexts and needs while integrating it into the curricula of their respective educational establishments. The national plans have been developed, and until the end of the year, all countries are planning to implement the pilot courses either by updating the existing courses and adding new modules to them or by introducing new courses as vocational training.