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Asia's drug user community gets heightened visibility in the region

Bangkok (Thailand), 6 September 2010
- Despite the often-repeated epithet "Nothing for us without us", people who use drugs rarely have the opportunity to participate fully in developing policies or making decisions about issues that affect them. Lacking an effective voice, their concerns either tend to be ignored or other groups (such as health professionals and development organizations) advocate on their behalf.

However, recently, the region witnessed one important development which will overcome this problem. This occurred with the formal registration of the NGO called ANPUD - the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs, and the formation of its first-ever Executive Board.

"People who use drugs should be consulted and involved in policy dialogue", says newly-elected ANPUD Chair Jimmy Dorabjee.

"By taking their destinies into their own hands, groups like ANPUD break new ground and claim a seat at the discussion table, side-by-side with international organizations, governments and civil society groups," said Gary Lewis, UNODC Regional Representative, who was invited to attend a 'Meet the Executive Board' event at the conclusion of the board meeting.

The goal of ANPUD is to ensure that people who use drugs in Asia have access to opportunities for a better quality of life and are able to make decisions on issues affecting their lives. In addition, the network is dedicated to increasing awareness by establishing an advocacy platform and by forging partnerships and strategic alliances to achieve its goals.

The meeting, held in Bangkok during 25-27 August, also introduced Dean Lewis as the ANPUD Regional Coordinator. At the meeting, ANPUD was invited by UNODC and UNAIDS to nominate two representatives of their community to join the United Nations Regional Task Force on Injecting Drug Use and HIV/AIDS for Asia and the Pacific, which aims to reduce the HIV infection among injecting drug users in Asia and the Pacific.

During the meeting, participants spoke about key priorities in the region, possible joint advocacy goals and plans for further collaboration between ANPUD and partners in the region.

Among those present were representatives of the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+), Seven Sisters, the Australian Government's overseas aid programme (AusAid), the Burnet Institute, the HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Programme, UNAIDS Regional Support Team and the UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific.

UNODC and UNAIDS are supporting drug user communities in Asia, through ANPUD, to participate in the debate on issues affecting them.