World leaders release groundbreaking report

The Global Commission on Drug Policy released a groundbreaking report in London this week. The Commission, which includes six former national presidents, Richard Branson and other world leaders, argues that the global War on Drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners. Their groundbreaking was released in advance of the world's largest gathering of HIV/AIDS experts, the International AIDS Conference, to be held in the US this July 22-27, in Washington DC.

Mr Paul Barratt, Chairman of Australia21, said 'Not only has the War on Drugs failed but it causes unintended harms. Urgent and major reforms of global drug policy are needed to halt the spread of HIV infection and other unintended impacts of our current drug policy'.

Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas, a Director and former Chairman of Australia21 and a public health expert, said 'People who inject drugs account for 10% of all new HIV infections in the world and 33% of new HIV infections outside Sub Saharan Africa. We have known how to dramatically slow these HIV infections for 20 years but, because of entrenched opposition from supporters of the War on Drugs, we have not implemented the strategies in time and on sufficient scale. What a dreadful public health legacy we are passing on to future generations'.

'Australia showed the world that stopping HIV among people who inject drugs was achievable,' said Mr Barratt 'but this required strong leadership and effective collaboration from governing and opposition politicians. Every Australian has benefitted from their courage and commitment'.

'It's time' said Professor Douglas 'for the same combination of real political skills, courage and vision from politicians of all parties to find more effective drug policies and a means of implementing them'.

Mr Barratt said, 'What is needed on a world-wide basis is to treat the problem for what it is - primarily a health and social problem. This means establishing adequate needle syringe programs, safer injection facilities, methadone and buprenorphine treatment and heroin assisted treatment'.

Australia21 is hosting a second Roundtable to discuss drug policy next month and will release a report from this meeting in the spring.