International Drug Users Day: UN calls for an end to criminalisation

In News by AIVL

The Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) is calling on Australian governments to heed calls from the United Nations for an end to criminalisation on International Drug Users Day today.

“Earlier this year, UNAIDS released Health, Rights and Drugs – Harm Reduction, Decriminalization and Zero Discrimination for People Who Use Drugs, calling on all countries to adopt a series of recommendations to implement a public health and human rights approach to drug use,”1 explained Melanie Walker, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AIVL.

The UNAIDS report points out that:

“In 2017, 12 UN entities issued a joint statement on stigma and discrimination within health-care settings that called on countries to review and repeal punitive laws – including the criminalization of drug use and possession for personal use – that are proven to have negative health outcomes and that counter established public health evidence.” (pg. 5)

The report’s recommendation on human rights, dignity and the rule of law calls on governments to:

“Protect and promote the human rights of people who use drugs by treating them with dignity, providing equal access to health and social services, and by decriminalizing drug use/consumption and the possession, purchase and cultivation of drugs for personal use.” (pg. 7)

A separate recommendation on implementing harm reduction services goes on to call on governments to also:

“Fully implement comprehensive harm reduction and HIV services— including needle–syringe programmes, opioid substitution therapy, naloxone and safe consumption rooms—on a scale that can be easily, voluntarily and confidentially accessed by all people who use drugs, including within prisons and other closed settings.” (pg. 6)

“AIVL congratulates the ACT Government for its recent legislative changes in relation to the possession, use and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis, as an important Australian step forward to end criminalisation of people who use drugs,” Ms Walker said.

“On International Drug Users Day 2019, AIVL and its member organisations around the country will be recognising and celebrating the strength and diversity of our communities and the progress we’ve made in improving our health and human rights.

“Drug user organisations challenge stigma and promote the voice of people who use drugs in all aspects of policy and service delivery. We call on governments across the country to ensure a renewed focus on evidence-based measures, such as those outlined in the National Drug and Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategies, rather than those that have been proven ineffective, such as drug testing of welfare recipients, for example.

“The evidence shows us what works,” Ms Walker said. “Now we just need governments willing to change counterproductive laws and allocate resources accordingly.”

AIVL is the national organisation representing people who use/have used illicit drugs and is the peak body for the state and territory peer-based drug user organisations.

Jake Docker, CEO, AIVL – email

 1 UNAIDS (2019) ‘Health, Rights and Drugs – Harm Reduction, Decriminalisation and Zero Discrimination for People Who Use Drugs’, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

Find out more

Access the United Nations’ ‘Health, Rights and Drugs – Harm Reduction, Decriminalization and Zero Discrimination for People Who Use Drugs’ report