Harm Reduction and Human Rights

The Global Response to Drug-Related HIV Epidemics
HR2 - Harm Reduction and Human Rights
January 2009

IHRA’s HR2 programme released a report entitled ‘Harm Reduction and Human Rights: The Global Response to Drug-Related HIV Epidemics’. The report provides a concise overview of the global situation in terms of drug-related HIV epidemics worldwide, with a particular focus on the regions of Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub Saharan Africa.

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The report also examines harm reduction within the context of international human rights law, addressing issues such as the right to health, abusive law enforcement practices and their effect on access to HIV prevention efforts and discrimination faced by people who use drugs in accessing HIV anti retroviral therapy.

It is estimated that 15.9 million people inject drugs in 158 countries and territories around the world. The overwhelming majority live in low- and middle-income countries. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, up to 30% of all HIV infections occur through injecting drug use. Despite this situation, the overwhelming evidence in favour of harm reduction as an effective HIV prevention strategy and the endorsement of UNAIDS, the World Health Organization and UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the global state of harm reduction is poor. This is especially true in countries where harm reduction services are needed most urgently.