2-6 March 2020 – Vienna, Austria – The 63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs took place in Vienna from 2-6 March 2020. The UNODC HIV/AIDS Section co-organized several events to highlight the current situation of and response to HIV among people who use drugs and people in prison:
Despite overall progress in the HIV response, the rate of HIV infection is rising among people who use drugs - largely due to current programs being inaccessible, inappropriate and thus ineffective in this population. The side event on 'Communities at the Centre’, co-sponsored by the Government of Switzerland, the International Drug Policy Consortium, the International Network of People who use Drugs, the Joint United Nations Programme in HIV/AIDS, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for involving communities of people who use drugs in designing and implementing harm reduction programmes that meet their needs.
UNODC, in cooperation with the Government of Austria, also organised a site visit to Suchthilfe Wien (drug dependence centre). This visit provided a valuable opportunity for participants from different regions and professional backgrounds to learn about comprehensive harm reduction services in Vienna.
The side event ‘Achieving Gender Equality in HIV Interventions Among Women Who Use Drugs’, co-organized by the Government of Brazil, highlighted the need to strengthen gender-responsive health-care services, including harm reduction, for women who use drugs. UNODC HIV/AIDS Section presented technical guidelines for addressing the specific health needs of women who use drugs and women in prisons. Speakers also shared the perspectives of the community of women who use drugs and the country experiences of Brazil and Myanmar in overcoming barriers in the provision of and access to comprehensive services.
In the context of the Scientific Forum, Prof. Adeeba Kamarulzamangave a statement calling for a people-centered and health-centered approach to combating the world drug problem, which includes adequately investing in harm reduction services, supporting community-led responses, up-scaling access to health-care services, ending stigma and protecting the human rights of people who use drugs.
Over the years, UNODC has provided technical assistance to countries in Eastern Africa to develop and implement a comprehensive and gender-responsive human rights approach to health in prisons. At the side event “A Human Rights Approach in East African Prison Health: Country Examples”, co-sponsored by the Government of Kenya and the UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa, speakers shared current achievements and challenges in prison health in Kenya, Mauritius and Seychelles. Participants urged for the needs of women and their children to be prioritised in health programs in prison. The event emphasized that people in prisons should have access to health care services equivalent to those provided in the community.
Finally, during the side event entitled 'Rehabilitation and social reintegration for released prisoners including ensuring continuity of health care services’, co-sponsored by the Governments of Zambia and the State of Qatar, and the UNODC Justice Section, representatives from the Zambia Correctional Service and NGO Prisoner Reintegration and Empowerment Organisation (PREO) presented their collaborative efforts in providing a second chance for people released from prison to fully reintegrate into society, and the NGO role in ensuring continuity of health services for people upon release from prisons.