Rabble.ca – December 1 was World AIDS Day, a time to fight HIV stereotyping and stigmatization together with helping to stop the spread of the disease. It was also Rob Ford’s first full day in office as the newly elected mayor of Toronto.

“It’s a sad day to welcome a mayor who hates people living with HIV,” said Alex McClelland of AIDS Action Now. “I’m one of those people Rob Ford doesn’t give a shit about.”

In 2006, Ford argued against funding a $1.5 million AIDS strategy. “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably,” said Ford.

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The Strand – When HIV/AIDS first crept onto medical radar in the early 1980s, it was a mystery. Doctors from the U.S., France, Zaire, and Haiti noticed that patients, their immune systems overwhelmed, were dying from infections an otherwise healthy body would be able to fight off. By 1983, French medical researchers had isolated the virus HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which attacks the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to infections and cancers. HIV was later connected to the development of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome – when the body is no longer able to protect itself from infection.)

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More than two decades ago when Dr. Julio Montaner began research on HIV/AIDS, little was known about an epidemic that was believed to be a death sentence.

Today, people with the illness and access to treatment are living into old age, thanks in no small measure to breakthroughs — medical and social — that have come out of Vancouver’s research community.

“We’re pretty proud of the accomplishments we have achieved over the last three decades,” said Montaner, a researcher with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

“A lot of that has to do with being at the right place and the right time.”

In the 1980s, which Montaner refers to as the “dark era,” the life expectancy of someone with AIDS was little more than 10 years.

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The War on Drugs is a failure and is undermining the fight against HIV-Aids. On World Aids Day 2010, the International Aids Society is asking its 19,000-plus membership of HIV professionals around the globe to sign up to the Vienna Declaration – drug policy should be based on science, not ideology – and speak with one clear and credible voice to call for a new, evidence-based approach to dealing with illicit drugs.

The evidence has long been in for IAS – more than a third of the organisation’s members work as healthcare and social services providers on the front lines of the HIV epidemic. They know that the criminalisation of drug users undermines public health efforts by driving them underground and away from prevention and care services.

They know that the War on Drugs places individuals already vulnerable to HIV infection in even higher risk settings; incarcerating them in overcrowded prisons where a high prevalence of HIV, a risk of violence, the use of non-sterile drug injection equipment, sexual contacts, tattooing and sharing of razors create an ideal breeding ground for the disease.

Our members also know that in a number of countries, record drug-related incarceration rates have negatively affected the social functioning of entire communities.

Racial disparities in drug incarceration rates are also evident worldwide, and are particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement.

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The City of Vancouver has voted unanimously to endorse the Vienna Declaration, an international campaign calling for governments to adopt evidence-based drug polices that reduce harm, rather than tougher laws.

This means that city policies regarding urban health and drug addiction will now be guided by science and data, not ideology, said Coun. Kerry Jang, who brought the motion to council.

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CFAX 1070 – The City of Victoria has become only the second city in Canada to endorse the so-called Vienna declaration, condemning the failure of the so-called “war on drugs.”

The declaration which came out of a recent conference in Europe calls for a sweeping review of traditional enforcement-based drug policies.

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Victoria is now the second city in Canada, after Toronto, to officially back the Vienna Declaration, which calls for governments to ease up on strict law enforcement and instead develop drug policies based on scientific evidence.

Victoria City councillors voted Thursday to ratify their unanimous endorsement of the declaration, which was announced at the 2010 International AIDS conference in Vienna in July.

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Toronto Star – Toronto has become the first city in the world to endorse the Vienna Declaration, which advocates harm reduction over the law enforcement-driven war on drugs.

City council voted 33-7 to sign on to the declaration, which was unveiled last month at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. It calls for a more comprehensive approach to curb unsafe drug use that leads to illness such as HIV and AIDS.

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Toronto this week became the first city in the world to formally endorse the Vienna Declaration that states that war-on-drugs-style prohibitions are a costly failure, denounces the “severe negative consequences” of such policies both in terms of public health and crime rates, and urges a shift in emphasis to regulation and harm reduction.

It would be easy to dismiss the city council’s decision as a meaningless gesture by local politicians working well out of their depth, except that the push to decriminalize, not only marijuana, but hard drugs like cocaine and heroin as well, is a rising international phenomenon, being driven by serious and credible sources, not by local politicians or stoner websites.

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Toronto has become the first city in the world – and the first government in North America – to formally endorse a declaration that advocates harm reduction over the war on drugs.

The Vienna Declaration, which slams the criminalization of illicit drugs as a major factor fuelling HIV infection rates, came to the fore during this year’s AIDS conference. Its authors called on policy-makers around the world to refocus their approaches to illegal drugs and HIV-AIDS prevention – especially in light of new statistics that show HIV infection rates have climbed back to 1982 levels, largely thanks to infection in injection-drug users.

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