Law Enforcement Attempts To Stop Injection Drug Use Undermining HIV Control Efforts

Armen Hareyan's picture

Efforts by police to stop injection drug use are undermining attemptsto curb the spread of HIV among injection drug users in Southeast Asia,law enforcement and health experts said Wednesday at the opening of aconference in Bangkok, Thailand, on reducing health risks for IDUs, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/24).


According to the Open Society Institute, which is sponsoring the conference, HIV is fueled by injection drug use in at least 20 countries in Asia and Eastern Europe (AP/Yahoo! News,10/24). Daniel Wolfe, deputy director of OSI's International HarmReduction Program, said that efforts to reduce the spread of HIV amongIDUs "can only work if law enforcement understands" harm-reductionmeasures and "helps to enforce them" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/24).

IDUsoften are forced to use dirty needles because they are harassed orarrested at needle-exchange centers and drug treatment clinics, the AP/Yahoo! Newsreports. According to Aditya Anugrah Putra, a human rights researcherat the Indonesian Drug Users' Network, police harass and extort IDUs atmethadone clinics and needle-exchange centers throughout the country.Police "wait outside methadone clinics to search patients for drugs,and they arrest syringe exchange clients at will," Putra said (AP/Yahoo! News,10/24). Precha Knokwan of the Thai Drug Users' Network added thatpolice in Thailand often confuse IDUs and people who sell drugs,hindering efforts to provide treatment to IDUs (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/24).

Wolfesaid that the result of law enforcement arresting or harassing IDUs atneedle-exchange centers and clinics is "increased HIV infections,missed treatment opportunities and lost lives" (AP/Yahoo! News,10/24). According to experts, it has become more difficult to determinethe number of IDUs in Southeast Asia because police have caused them togo underground. Some experts say that as many as 50% of IDUs in theregion are HIV-positive (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/24).

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