14-18 March 2022 – Vienna – the 65th Session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs took place in Vienna between 14-18 March 2022. The Commission included more than 130 online side events that were held over the course of the entire week, and discussed implementation of drug policy commitments with participants from 128 countries both online and in person.
The UNODC HIV/AIDS Section organized and co-sponsored several virtual side events to raise awareness among global stakeholders on how inequalities stand in the way of further progress against AIDS among people who use drugs and people in prisons; the role of partnership between the community of people who use drugs and police; challenges and gaps in provision of evidence-based interventions in prison settings; how the global HIV response can transform drug policy; and the intersecting oppression faced by women who use drugs. Ms. Fariba Soltani, Chief of UNODC HIV/AIDS Section and Global HIV Coordinator, delivered a statement on 16 March under Agenda item 6 (please access the statement here.
14 March: The side event “Ending Inequalities for People who Use Drugs: How the Global HIV Response can Transform Drug Policy, co-sponsored by UNODC together with UNAIDS, the Netherlands and Australia and organized by INPUD and Médecins du Monde, reviewed advocacy work on the “10-10-10” targets for removing social and legal impediments towards an enabling environment limiting access or utilization of HIV services, and ’80-60-30’ targets suggesting that by 2025 communities will deliver 30% of testing and treatment services, 80% of HIV prevention services and 60% of programmes supporting the achievements of societal enablers.
This side event stressed these targets’ importance for policy makers, drug control agencies, and other civil society organizations in galvanizing better approaches to drug policies, research, and programmes. The event discussed how all stakeholders, including Member States, UN agencies and civil society actors, can work alongside people who use drugs to integrate these targets into policies and programmes. In her presentation during this side event, Fariba Soltani, Chief of UNODC HIV/AIDS Section and Global HIV Coordinator, emphasized the importance of treating communities as full partners and underlined that “to end inequalities, to the end AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics and to be prepared for future pandemics, the full engagement of this community-led infrastructure must become universal.”
16 March: The side event“The inequalities that drive the HIV/AIDS epidemic among people who use drugs and people in prisons”, organized by UNODC HIV/AIDS Section and co-organized by UNAIDS, WHO and INPUD, focused on global systematic reviews of the epidemiology of injecting drug use and HIV; the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the implementation of HIV prevention, treatment, and care services among people who use drugs and people in prisons; and innovations in harm reduction service delivery in response to COVID-19.
This side event showcased a presentation from a community perspective in Nepal on the COVID-19 pandemic and community initiatives. It gathered over 60 participants and reflected discussions from the pre-CND multi-stakeholder consultation conducted on 8-9 March.
17 March: The side event “Drug use, mental health and HIV among people in prison settings” was organized by the Permanent Mission of Namibia to the United Nations in Vienna and co-organized by UNODC HIV/AIDS Section and UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section. Prison is a high-risk environment for HIV, substance use disorders and mental health conditions. This side event highlighted the challenges and gaps in providing evidence-based interventions for HIV, drug use and mental health among people in prison settings. Opening remarks were delivered by H.E. Mrs Nada Kruger, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of Namibia to the United Nations in Vienna.
Distinguished speakers from the Namibian Correctional Service, the UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, the UNODC HIV/AIDS Section, and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Australia shared their perspectives on addressing drug use, mental health and HIV in prisons in Namibia; treating drug use and associated mental health disorders in prison settings; co-morbidities and health vulnerabilities of people in prison; and managing drug dependence and related harms in prison setting and reducing overdose and suicide.
18 March: The side event “The role of law enforcement agents in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic”, organized by the UNODC Regional Programme Office for Eastern Europe, featured presentations on the changing role of law enforcement during the pandemic at the global level and in country contexts (through the example of Vietnam), and strategies to strengthen the capacity of police as they are called upon to provide frontline support to the community during a time of crisis. The event included more than 120 participants and introduced many relevant resources and examples of policing in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.
Law enforcement officers have come under serious expectations and scrutiny during the COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions. Effective and humane responses to epidemics and pandemics, access to needed therapy and treatment including necessary medications, and legal aid all require protection of the rights of key populations. The partnership between community and police is essential for assuring optimal community safety and well-being.
18 March: The side event: “Women who use drugs: intersecting injustice and opportunity” was organized by UN WOMEN with support from Australia, the UNODC HIV/AIDS Section and the Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN), to explore injustices and highlight opportunities for reform, as reflected in an advocacy brief launched jointly by WHRIN and UN WOMEN. A polling exercise was shared with registered audience members prior the meeting to make the side event interactive and to promote discussion related to the content of the advocacy brief.
Punitive drug policy in combination with gender inequality has contributed to intersecting injustices for women who use drugs, who face daily challenges in realizing their rights to health and safety. Women who use drugs experience high rates of stigma, discrimination, imprisonment, sexual and gender-based violence, and face additional barriers to accessing harm reduction services. Monica Ciupagea, Expert, Drug Use and HIV, UNODC, represented UNODC HIV/AIDS Section and highlighted UNODC’s response to the specific needs of women who use drugs, including the section’s recent publications on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the comprehensive harm reduction package and key interventions for women who inject drugs, and underlined the challenges that women who use drugs have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please access other CND Plenary speeches here:
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS
Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria