Drug Users Need Treatment, Not Punishment

Around two million people who inject drugs globally need treatment immediately but are currently denied access due to repressive laws.

On the UN International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) is taking this opportunity to highlight the huge health risks faced by people who inject drugs (PWID).

The most significant of these risks is chronic infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV). PWID are disproportionately affected by new HCV infections, a direct consequence of repressive drug policies implemented globally which impede access to harm reduction interventions and treatments by forcing drug use underground.

“Repressive laws are the major structural drivers of blood-borne viruses and other health-related difficulties among PWID all over the world,” says Médecins du Monde-France President, Dr Thierry Brigaud. “To best treat people we need to change current national and international drug policies to favour non-criminalising policies as a matter of urgency”.

Doctors of the World calls on UN member states to join the international initiative ‘Support, don’t punish’ which aims to promote drug policies based on public health and human rights.

The initiative calls for universal access to HCV-related prevention, as well as diagnostic and treatment services for PWID. In the UK around one fifth of PWID are infected with HCV but worldwide this is often much higher – up to 90 per cent in some countries. In every national setting, PWID face barriers to treatment.

Doctors of the World has today released an evidence-based position paper targeting health professionals and policy makers calling for an increased commitment to effective, universal access to HCV-related prevention and treatment programmes for PWID – including access to medicines.

Drafted in collaboration with the International Network of People Using Drugs (INPUD), it highlights that PWID are as able to accept treatment and prevention as any other HCV patients.

We are calling on UN member States and health professionals to regard the provision of HCV treatment to people who inject drugs as a public health priority.