I support the Vienna Declaration because a global HIV epidemic exists among drug users, and current approaches to tackling this massive health crisis have failed.
As a former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, I have seen firsthand the devastation – personal, social, and economic – that this disease can cause. Drug users now account for a third of all HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa; their devastation is compounded by perverse, punitive, destructive government policies.
We have the tools — we call them, collectively, “harm reduction” — to stop the spread of this epidemic. A combination of human rights and scientific evidence must be used to bring governments to their senses.
All people – whether they use drugs or not – should have access to life-saving treatment and health services. As things now stand, governments across the world continue to incarcerate drug users, and the cycle of stigma, HIV infection, and mass inequity goes on. The end result is a global HIV epidemic among drug users that is spiraling out of control.
Please join with me in signing and supporting the Vienna Declaration.
Stephen Lewis is the former Special Envoy to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Co-Director of AIDS-Free World, an international AIDS advocacy organization based in the United States.