New study suggests that the war on drugs is a leading factor in HIV/AIDS deaths and infection among people who use injection drugs

Systematic review of research finds laws and policies prohibiting drug use have a central role in undermining global HIV/AIDS efforts among people who inject drugs

VANCOUVER, May 16, 2017 /CNW/ - The criminalisation of drugs is a key driver of the global HIV epidemic and a potential barrier to eradicating HIV/AIDS, according to a systematic review published in Lancet HIV by researchers at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Researchers found the effect of criminalisation, including incarceration, street level policing, and drug paraphernalia laws and practices, negatively affected health outcomes for people who inject drugs due to decreased needle and syringe distribution, increased syringe sharing, and an increased burden of HIV.

"This provides an objective evidence base that the so-called global 'War on Drugs' is failing our communities," says Dr. Kora DeBeck, study co-lead and Assistant Professor in the School of Public Policy, SFU and Research Scientist with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. "The unintended consequences of drug prohibition are astronomical and crippling our ability to prevent and respond to HIV/AIDS among other well-documented harms."

Researchers systematically reviewed 106 global, peer-reviewed studies published between January 2006 and December 2014 on criminalisation and HIV prevention or treatment among people who use injection drugs. The vast majority of studies consistently show that drug criminalisation has a harmful effect on HIV prevention and treatment.

"In order to finally achieve an AIDS-Free Generation in high and low income settings alike, we should collectively reform existing legal systems and policies that criminalise drug use by people who inject drugs," says study co-lead and associate professor of epidemiology at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Stefan Baral. "Evidence should guide policy. And the evidence here is clear in that criminalizing drugs takes a toll on those being criminalized and the communities in which they live alike."

UNAIDS identifies criminalization and punitive laws as a primary reason why the level of decline in HIV incidence and mortality taking place globally is not being observed in people who inject drugs.

Worldwide, an estimated 8.4 million to 19 million individuals inject psychoactive drugs. The public health concerns associated with the use of injection drugs include the spread of infectious disease including HIV. About the thirteen per cent of people who inject drugs are thought to be living with HIV, which amounts so roughly 1.7 million people.

About the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is Canada's largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility and is internationally recognized as an innovative world leader in combating HIV/AIDS and related diseases. BC-CfE is based at St. Paul's Hospital, Providence Health Care, a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. The BC-CfE works in close collaboration with key provincial stakeholders, including government, health authorities, health care providers, academics from other institutions, and the community to decrease the health burden of HIV and AIDS. By developing, monitoring and disseminating comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related illnesses, the BC-CfE helps improve the health of British Columbians.

SOURCE British Columbia Centre for Excellence In HIV/AIDS

For further information: For media inquiries, or to interview associate professor of epidemiology at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Stefan Baral or Dr. Kora DeBeck, Assistant Professor in the School of Public Policy, SFU and Research Scientist with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, please contact: Rena Heer, Edelman, Cell: 604-250-2800, Email: rena.heer@edelman.com


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