India: UNODC and Institute of Correctional Administration Chandigarh empower law enforcement officials on drugs and HIV

Chandigarh, India/01 February 2024: UNODC, in collaboration with the Institute of Correctional Administration (ICA) Chandigarh, hosted a training program on "HIV and Drugs" for law enforcement officers from the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh. The training enhanced officers’ skills and understanding on the strategies to address the intersecting challenges of HIV and drug use within their communities.

The Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Punjab, Dr. Balbir Singh inaugurated the training. Dr. Singh highlighted the complex nature of HIV and drug issues, emphasizing that they are not merely legal or health problems but also social challenges that require a holistic approach. He also stressed the importance of depenalization for drug users, advocating for increased outreach for treatment and prevention. Dr. Singh underscored the urgency of adopting a multi-disciplinary approach and fostering collaboration among various departments to effectively combat drug addiction.

Over 30 police and prison officers, along with members of the State AIDS Control Society (SACS) from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh, participated in the training workshop. The program raised awareness and dispelled misconceptions surrounding HIV and drug use. Experts from esteemed organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), UNODC, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), and Alliance India shared their insights on various topics.

Highlighting the role of law enforcement officers, Mr. Marco Teixeira, UNODC Regional Representative for South Asia emphasized the need for a collaborative and inter-sectoral approach to tackle HIV and drug-related issues. Sanjeev Kalra, IPS, DGP Home Guards, Punjab, delivered special remarks during the ceremony, emphasizing the critical role of law enforcement officers in ensuring public health and the successful implementation of health-related interventions. Dr. Upneet Lalli from ICA reflected on the importance of prison health as a public health concern and training of law enforcers to address these pressing challenges.

Experts at the training workshop discussed not only supply and demand reduction strategies but also harm reduction approaches. Ms. Seema Joshi, UNODC’s Criminal Justice Expert, urged the law enforcement to play an active role in protecting public health and promoting health-related interventions.

The training equipped officials with accurate and up-to-date information about HIV and Drugs, empowering them to take proactive steps in the National HIV response.

The activity contributed to SDG 3, SDG 5, SDG 16 and SDG 17: