A report released by UNAIDS on March 13, 2019, shows that despite a decline in new HIV infections globally, HIV incidence is not declining among people who inject drugs. 99% of people who inject drugs live in countries that do not provide adequate harm reduction service coverage.
The new UNAIDS report "Health, rights and drugs: harm reduction, decriminalization and zero discrimination for people who use drugs" shows that of the 10.6 million people who inject drugs in 2016, more than half were living with hepatitis C and one in eight were living with HIV. It outlines that ensuring that comprehensive harm reduction services are available—including needle–syringe programmes, drug dependence treatment and HIV testing and treatment—will kick-start progress on stopping new HIV infections among people who use drugs.
The report outlines that although decriminalization of drug use and possession for personal use increases the provision, access and uptake of health and harm reduction services, criminalization and severe punishments remain commonplace. An estimated one in five people in prison globally are incarcerated for drug-related offences, around 80% of whom are in prison for possession for personal use alone. In addition, the report lists 35 countries that retain the death penalty for drug-related offences.
UNAIDS is advocating for the full engagement of civil society as an essential source of information and to provide mobilization, advocacy and community-led services, especially in places where repressive policies and practices are the norm. In addition, UNAIDS is calling for sufficient funding for human rights programmes and health services that include harm reduction and HIV services, community-led responses and social enablers and the removal of drug- related and HIV-related stigma and discrimination.