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Change In Drug Policy Needed To Reverse HIV/AIDS Epidemic In Eastern Europe, Central Asia

Noting the United Nations last week “announced the appointment of Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, the former head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as the U.N. Secretary-General’s new special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia,” Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Foundations’ global drug policy program, writes in this Huffington Post opinion piece, “[W]hile Dr. Kazatchkine’s skills will be principally devoted to a handful of E.U. Member States and some neighbors, all of Europe would be wise to heed his guidance on the importance of sensible drug policies in the HIV response.” She continues, “As a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy — a body of experts from politics, health, academia and business — Dr. Kazatchkine reminded leaders that ‘the war on drugs has fueled the HIV epidemic.’”

Malinowska-Sempruch quotes a recent report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which stated, “Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated,” and writes that the epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia cannot be reversed without a change in drug policy. “This lesson has been painfully experienced in many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which should serve as cautionary tales for all of Europe’s leaders — especially in this critical time of austerity,” she adds, provides examples, and concludes, “It is hoped that as the E.U. produces its own drug strategy it listens to its better angels and heeds the positive lessons of its recent history” (7/31).