I support the Vienna Declaration because I’ve seen first hand the terrible harms of the war on drugs. In Russia, our Government refuses to accept the scientific evidence showing that current policies are contributing to massive drug-related harms. The injection-fueled HIV epidemic in Russia now includes over a million people, taking away many lives. This unwillingness to face the facts will continue to make our friends suffer and die young – of AIDS, tuberculosis, drug overdoses, suicide. Unfortunately, the Russian government is not the only one that has refused to accept the evidence – countries across the world prefer the war and terror over health and dignity: they engage in torture, violence, executions, and willful neglect of the health and human rights of drug users, all in the name of the war on drugs.
We must push past the mythology, promoted by the special interests that benefit from drug prohibition, that ending the war on drugs will result in increased drug-related harm.
The experiences of countries like Portugal, and the many other countries which have emphasized the importance of harm reduction policies, suggest that the opposite can be achieved. The Vienna Declaration is an opportunity to show governments that we are speaking with a voice that spans continents, cultures and languages to send a simple message: we demand drug policies that respect human rights and are based on scientific evidence.
Anya Sarang (Moscow, Russia) is the President of Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice with a mission to promote and develop humane drug policy based on tolerance, protection of health, dignity and human rights.