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Russian Government’s Censorship Of Websites With Harm Reduction Methods For Drug Users Helps Fuel HIV Epidemic, IPS Reports

“A recent government crackdown on Russian media, particularly online information portals specializing in health tips and harm reduction methods for drug users, has sparked widespread public opposition, with critics claiming that the ‘draconian silencing’ of public health advocates could worsen an already perilous health situation in the country,” Inter Press Service reports. “Given that Russia currently has one of the largest populations of injecting drug users in the world as well as one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics, the dissemination of such information is essential to keep the spread of the virus under control,” IPS writes. “The fact that the United Nations listed universal treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS as one of its most urgent millennium development goals (MDGs) — with a deadline of achieving universal treatment by 2015 — human rights and health advocates contend that Russia’s failure to allow information or services helpful to drug users breaches international human rights and public health laws,” according to the news service (Klomegah, 2/17).

U.N. Says Asia Pacific Region Making Strides Against HIV/AIDS, Must Address Social And Legal Barriers To Treatment, Prevention

The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (ESCAP) on Monday in Bangkok “opened a three-day meeting lauding impressive gains in recent years in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” but the body cautioned “there are still legal and social barriers that significantly set back eradication efforts,” VOA News reports. U.N. ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer “note[d] the gains are uneven and there are still gaps in the goal of universal access to HIV treatment,” the news service writes.

Illegal Drug Use May Be Affecting Health, Death Rates Worldwide, Lancet Report Says

“About 200 million people around the world use illegal drugs every year, and that may be taking a toll on health and death rates in various countries, says a report released Thursday in the Lancet,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog reports. According to the blog, “[t]he study, part of a series the journal is doing on addiction, offers a plethora of information about [the] use of opioids, amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana worldwide” (Stein, 1/5).

British Columbia’s ‘Treatment-As-Prevention Strategy’ Helping To Reduce HIV/AIDS Cases, Deaths

“New HIV cases and AIDS deaths are both going steadily down in British Columbia, according to data released last week,” the New York Times reports. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said, “We’re particularly pleased to see that our treatment-as-prevention strategy has taken off big-time,” the newspaper notes, adding that the strategy, which aggressively identifies and treats people with HIV, “lowers by 96 percent the chances that they will infect others.” The New York Times writes, “Montaner said he is frustrated that rich countries will not donate enough money to roll out the strategy in poor countries with huge HIV epidemics” (McNeil, 1/2).

Russia Will Not Use HIV Spending To Fund Needle Exchange, Methadone Therapy, Reuters Reports

Though Russia is doubling its budget for HIV in 2012 over 2010 levels, “no money will go to such internationally recognized efforts as needle exchanges” and methadone replacement therapy, Reuters reports. “Moscow doesn’t believe these approaches help slow the spread of HIV/AIDS,” and “[s]ome health workers and global HIV authorities are angered and baffled by Russia’s approach, which they say will only aggravate the problem,” the news service writes. The article examines how government spending for HIV will be used, with only three percent of about $600 million expected to go toward prevention programs in 2012, and how non-governmental organizations are coping with cuts in funding from international donor programs (Ferris-Rotman/Koppel, 12/21).

Austerity Measures In Europe May Cause Rise In Drug-Related HIV Infections, Report Says

“Austerity measures brought in to tackle Europe’s economic crisis may cause a rise in drug-related HIV infections as stretched health services struggle to cope, the E.U.’s narcotics agency said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. “Greece, which is facing huge cutbacks, reported a large outbreak of HIV infections among drug users in July, the Lisbon-based agency said in its yearly report,” the news agency writes, noting, “New infections were also reported in Bulgaria, Estonia and Lithuania, it added.”

Greek Health System Suffers Amid Growing Economic Crisis

Reuters examines how a worsening economic crisis in Greece is affecting the country’s health system, highlighting a 36 percent decrease in health spending by Greeks this year, according to the National School of Public Health, and an increase of more than 50 percent in new cases of HIV from the first five months of 2010 to the same period this year. The news service also notes a rise in depression and suicide, writing, “Greeks are swallowing 35 percent more antidepressants than they did five years ago, according to the National School of Public Health. The health ministry says suicides are up 40 percent so far this year.”

Canada Supreme Court Rules Vancouver's Safe Drug-Injection Site Can Stay Open

“Vancouver’s Insite clinic, the only such safe-injection site for [people who use drugs] in North America, can stay open, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday in a landmark defeat for the federal government,” Reuters reports. “The country’s top court … ruled unanimously that closing the site would threaten the lives of drug users and therefore violate their human rights,” the news agency writes (Ljunggren, 9/30).

Human Rights Watch Report Says Foreign Aid Indirectly Supporting Forced Labor In Vietnam's Drug Rehabilitation Centers

In a report released Wednesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch “accused the United States government, the World Bank and other international donors of indirectly funding forced labor in Vietnam’s drug rehabilitation centers,” Inter Press Service reports. The report “said that Vietnam’s system of forced labor centers for people who use drugs has expanded over the last decade” and they “have been sustained by a variety of international donors, none of which has made objections,” the news service writes.

Few Treatment Options For Growing Population Of Drug Users In Afghanistan

The New York Times examines the “growing drug addiction problem” in Afghanistan, where, in 2010, about 900,000 people, or seven percent of the adult population, were using drugs, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. The newspaper notes “a recent report by the Ministry of Public Health in partnership with Johns Hopkins University … found HIV present in about seven percent of drug users, double the figure just three years ago, said Dr. Fahim Paigham, who until recently directed the Ministry of Public Health’s AIDS control program.”