NGO’s adressed an open letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon in a view of his visit to Ukraine and Russia
You may find the Russian version of an open letter here
His Excellency Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
20 April 2011
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
We, the undersigned, represent affected communities, activists, practitioners and non-governmental organisations working in the field of HIV/AIDS. Although all UN Member States have committed to reaching the Millennium Development Goal 6 “Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases”, Ukraine and Russia remain among a few countries worldwide where AIDS epidemics are on the rise (UNAIDS 2010). Your forthcoming visit to Ukraine and the Russian Federation presents an important opportunity to draw the attention of the governments of these countries to their inadequate response to the fast growing HIV epidemics largely concentrated among injecting drug users.
In Russia and Ukraine over a million people are living with HIV, with approximately 80% having contracted the virus through sharing injecting equipment. People who use drugs represent an estimated two percent of the Russian population. While drug users experience the highest risk of contracting HIV infection, they are often deprived of their right to health and life and experience structural violence and discrimination in law enforcement and medical settings. Neglecting the rights of people who use drugs, especially at the concentrated stage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, will inevitably lead to serious health and social consequences for the society as a whole.
The Russian government is failing to ensure universal access to HIV prevention treatment and support for people who inject drugs because of its unwillingness to accept a UN-recommended comprehensive package which includes substitution treatment and needle and syringe programs. Contrary to the letter and spirit of the UN Drug Conventions, the use of methadone and buprenorphine in treatment of drug dependence is legally banned. Needle and syringe programs are considered by the Government as a threat to the national anti-drug strategy. Public debates on these highly effective and internationally recognized interventions are officially stifled and since recently, officially subjected to a legal ban.
The position of the Russian authorities has had devastating consequences. Millions of people who use drugs are deprived of medical and social services. Efforts of civil society and international organizations responding to HIV epidemic are counterbalanced by the Government’s ideology-driven position of “zero tolerance” toward drug use. Numerous violations of human rights stemming from Russia’s repressive and ineffective policy toward people using drugs have been documented and submitted to the UN Human Rights bodies.
The first step to improving the situation in Russia should be official recognition by the Russian Government of the role of the UN comprehensive package, including opioid substitution therapy and needle and syringe programs, in combating HIV among injecting drug users. We hope that your visit will present an opportunity to remind the Russian government about the official UN position on these issues:
- According to WHO, UNAIDS and UNODC, needle exchange and substitution treatment are among the nine core interventions to prevent HIV among injecting drug users;
- Methadone and buprenorphine are included on the WHO Model Essential Medicines List;
- Numerous UN Declarations point to the role of civil society as crucial for effective response to HIV/AIDS.
The position of the Government of Ukraine is remarkably inconsistent. On one hand, opioid substitution treatment and needle and syringe programs are guaranteed by the national legislation and have been implemented for more than ten years. On the other hand, NGOs and health care institutions implementing the above mentioned programs are experiencing strong pressure from public prosecutor’s offices and numerous controlling bodies.
In addition, punitive laws and repressive law enforcement activities escalated in April 2011, significantly hampering access of drug users to health services. A needlessly overregulated drug control system makes it too difficult for drug treatment doctors to run opioid substitution treatment sites. Some doctors have experienced harassment by law enforcement and have faced arbitrary prosecution. Apart from fear of law enforcement, drug users, including clients of opioid substitution treatment sites, experience stigma and discrimination, breach of confidentiality of medical data and constant threat that effective opioid substitution treatment could be suddenly terminated because of a changed position of the local authorities. Considering the above mentioned and due to the lack of the governmental support and funding, the OST programs coverage remains far below the UN-recommended standards.
The Ukrainian Government should ensure that on-going opioid substitution treatment and other harm reduction services are expanded to meet recommended coverage levels without pressure and interference from Law Enforcement bodies. Criminal laws and law enforcement should not obstruct such programs.
During your visit to Cambodia at the end of 2010, you met with patients of a methadone clinic and some of them received methadone from your hands; by doing this you demonstrated to the world that the UN is committed to a public health-oriented and human rights-based approach towards people who use drugs. As you are embarking on your visit to Ukraine and Russia, your expression of the official UN position in favour of opioid substitution treatment and needle and syringe programs would support and strengthen efforts of civil society and the UN agencies in our countries to promote HIV/AIDS response that is based on scientific evidence and human rights.
|Anya SarangPresidentAndrey Rylkov Foundation forHealth and Social Justice,And Secretariat of the Initiative group on Substitution Treatment Advocacy in Russia
|Olga BelyaevaHead of BoardNPO “Association of SubstitutionTreatment Advocates of Ukraine” A.S.T.A.U|
|Andriy KlepikovExecutive DirectorInternational HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine|
Ukrainian Harm Reduction Association
|On behalf of:|
|Rick LinesExecutive DirectorInternational Harm Reduction Association
|Koen BlockExecutive DirectorEuropean Aids Treatment Group (EATG)
|Jude ByrneChair of BoardInternational Network of People who Use Drugs
|Joseph Amon MSPH PhDDirectorHealth and Human Rights Division
Human Rights Watch
|David OtiashviliChairEurasian Harm Reduction Network
|Richard ElliottExecutive DirectorCanadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network|
|Peter SarosiDrug Policy Program DirectorHungarian Civil Liberties Union
|Alvaro BermejoExecutive DirectorInternational HIV/AIDS Alliance|
|Ann FordhamCoordinatorInternational Drug Policy Consortium
|Niamh EastwoodActing Executive DirectorRelease, UK|
|Marek ZygadloSecretary of Steering CommitteeThe Krakow Association for Drug Users Support
|Daniel WolfeDirectorInternational Harm Reduction Development
Program, Open Society Institute
|Robert NewmanDirectorBaron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center,
International Center for Advancement of Addiciton Tretment
|Zulaika EsentaevaPublic Health Program CoordinatorSoros Foundation – Kyrgyzstan|
|Dr Chris Ford GPClinical DirectorInternational Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies (IDHDP)
|Jan Chrostek Maj, MDFoundation Antidotum, Krakow, Poland|
|Dr. Jean-Paul GrundSenior researcherCVO – Addiction Research Center
|Eberhard SchatzProject coordinatorCORRELATION network
c/o Foundation De REGENBOOG GROEP
|Peter StuhlmuellerCEODeutsche AIDS-Hilfe e.V.
|Svetlana KulsisHeadAssocation of HIV affected women and their familes “Demetra”, Lithuania|
|Evgeny PisemskyChairpersonNGO “Phoenix PLUS”, Russia
|Grazyna KoniecznyChairpersonSocial AIDS Committee ( SKA), Warsaw, Poland|
|Danny MorrisDirectorUK Harm Reduction Alliance||Giorgio Bignami
PresidentForum Droghe, Italy
|Svetlana ProsvirinaChairpersonKaliningrad Regional Public organization of PLH “Status Plus”, Russia||Irina TeplinskayaCoordinatorEurasian Network of People who Use Drugs|
Crimean Foundation “Our hope”
|Konstantin MalishevDirectorNoncommercial Partnership “Antidrug programs”|
|Denis KamaldinovChairman of BoardNovosibirsk Public Organization'”Humanitarian Project”, Russia||Jurgis AndriuskaHead of Association “Pozityvus gyvenimas” Lithuanian network of PLWH|
Chairman of the BoardCharitable organization “All-Ukrainian League “LEGALIFE”
|Natalia RekhtinaChairman of BoardAltai Regional Public Organization «Positive Development», Russia|
|Dzmitry FilippauDirectormenZDRAV Foundation (Center for Social
Development and Men’s Health Support Foundation), Russia
Chairman of the BoardCharitable organization”Charitable Foundation “Drop in Center”, Ukrain
|Nelli KalikovaThe Member of the Board,NGO AIDS Information and Support Center (AIDS-i Tugikeskus), Estonia
DirectorCharity Foundation “Tomsk-Anti-Aids”, Russia
|Yuliya PalagnuykDirectorRegional Public organization of Chernovcy the “Light future for you”, Ukraine
|Jurij MigotinCoordinator”Gay-Forum Ukraine – Donbass”|
|Mikhail UshakovDirectorNGO “Youth Theatre “Light”, Russia
Executive DirectorCharitable Association Light of Hope,Poltava, Ukraine
Categories: Press-releases, Russia and OST | Tags: advocacy, HIV, HR, open letter, OST, Ukraine, UN | No comments »