Conference in Costa Rica discusses drug policies in Latin America  

Opening ceremony of the 5th Latin American Conference on Drug Policy

San José, 11 September 2014 - The 5th Latin American Conference on Drug Policy, organized by civil society to discuss drug policies in the region, brought together hundreds of government officials, United Nations representatives, experts and civil society members in San José, Costa Rica, on 3 and 4 September.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), organized a side event on the first day of the conference to discuss the HIV epidemics and people who use drugs in Latin America.  The main objectives of this session were to share evidences about the HIV epidemic and drug users in Latin America and to exchange experiences at national, sub-regional and regional levels among services providers, policy makers, multilateral and bilateral cooperation actors, civil society, academia and drug users.

Three studies were presented during the session. Carola Lew, Regional Adviser on HIV/AIDS of the UNODC Liaison and Partnership Office for Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, presented a study on HIV/AIDS prevalence and knowledge, attitudes and practices among users of pasta base, crack and other designations of smoked cocaine in Montevideo and its metropolitan area. The study focused on the high vulnerability of non-injectable drug users, the sexual and drug use practices that offer high risk for HIV transmission among this population and the challenges to access HIV health and social protection services.

Following this, the Director of Drug Policy Planning and Evaluation of the Brazilian National Drug Policy Secretariat (SENAD), Luiz Guilherme Paiva, presented data from a study conducted by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) on the "Profile of crack users and/or similar in Brazil". The study, which describes both socio-demographic and behavioral characteristics of this population, found that HIV infection is eight times higher among crack users than in the general population.

Finally, the Team Coordinator for Drug Demand Reduction of the UNODC Regional Office in Panamá, Melva Ramírez, presented a study conducted with patients of treatment centers for drug dependency in Central American countries, which provides information on HIV prevalence and risk factors for drug users in the region.

To start the debate about the response to the HIV epidemic among drug users, the Coordinator of the Mental Health Department of the city of São Paulo, Myres Cavalcanti, talked about the Braços Abertos Program and reported data about HIV and syphilis prevalence among crack users who were assisted by the program. Implemented by the municipality of São Paulo since in January in in the city's downtown area, the program has registered almost 400 crack users to receive housing, jobs, food, health care and professional training.

Over 50 participants attended the side event, including the UNAIDS Regional Director for Latin America, César Nuñez, and the UNODC Regional Representative for Central America and the Caribbean, Amado Philip De Andrés.

The conference also featured a panel dedicated to the next United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), which will provide in 2016 an opportunity for countries to discuss global issues related to drug control.

Related information:

V Conferencia Latinoamericana sobre Políticas de Drogas

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