The estimated growth of new HIV infections increased for 43% from 2010 to 2020 making the region of Easter Europe and Central Asia the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. Criminal laws, unsupportive policing practices and lack of quality and accessible HIV and harm reduction services impede successful HIV response. There is a growing awareness among Eastern Europe and Central Asian countries that the role of LE agencies in addressing the drug use issues needs to be more addressed. Evidence from both theory and practice suggests that the main drivers behind the disproportionately low access to HIV services among key populations include lack of supportive national drug policies and legislation; over-reliance of many national law enforcement systems on criminal sanctions and imprisonment; stigma and discrimination, harassment, violence and extortion, including from state actors such as law enforcement, defense and national security personnel.
UNODC experts, jointly with the civil society organizations working with key populations, facilitated a 2-day regional consultation (30-31 May) for 45 decision-makers from the LE agencies representing drug control, police divisions dealing with public security, and the NGO sector from the countries of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Ms Ashita Mittal, UNODC Representative for Central Asia, had joined the meeting online and warmly welcomed the consultation’s participants.