THE HAGUE, 10 August 2006 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is to receive 20 million euros from the Netherlands to help curb the spread of HIV among drug users in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Under an agreement signed on Thursday by UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa and Hans Hoogervorst, Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, the money will be used to countries implement a comprehensive package of HIV/AIDS prevention and care measures.
"Injecting drug use accounts for up to 80 percent of HIV infections in some regions," Mr Costa said. "This is a staggering figure. We need an all-out effort to halt and reverse this epidemic. This generous donation by the Netherlands will make a real difference to the lives of many vulnerable people and their families."
Minister Hoogervorst said the high incidence of HIV/AIDS was putting enormous pressure on the healthcare systems of many countries in the region. "The Netherlands is keen to do what it can to help improve public health in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia and help curb the spread of the virus from drug users to the general population," he said.
Measures planned in the 2006-2010 period will include substitution treatment, outreach programmes, information on risk reduction and referral to services, voluntary counselling and testing and access to treatment of HIV/AIDS.
High-risk groups, such as prisoners and sex workers who inject drugs, will benefit from special interventions and attention will also be given to the specific needs of minorities and pregnant women. Grassroots organizations and regional networks will play an important role in reaching target groups, whose involvement will be sought in all stages of the projects.
Mr Costa said it was important not to stigmatize drug users. "We must be inclusive in what we do. Stigmatising the vulnerable only drives people further into marginalisation and increases the risk of HIV/AIDS," he added.
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