Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations War on Drugs

Reasons for drug policy reform: people who use drugs are denied evidence based treatment

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 17 January 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:i6613
  1. Michel Kazatchkine, UN secretary general special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia1
  1. 1Global Commission on Drug Policy, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. contact{at}

Prohibition can prevent access to harm reduction treatment, including methadone, for people who inject drugs, writes Michel Kazatchkine

Why is eastern Europe the only region in the world that still has a growing HIV epidemic?1 In one of the region’s countries, Russia, more than two thirds of all HIV infections, and 55% of the near 100 000 new infections reported last year, resulted from drug injection.2

Some 3.2 million people in eastern Europe inject drugs, and about 1.5 million of them are in Russia. In 2007 the number of newly reported HIV cases among Russian people who inject drugs (12 538) was similar to the number in the rest of eastern Europe (12 026). But since then the numbers have diverged hugely.3

Scaling up of harm reduction programmes in several countries coincided with a stabilising of HIV rates—and fewer than 7000 new cases outside …

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