Global Day of Action in CAHR countries

On or around the 26th June, activists and allies in more than 150 cities all around the world came out as part of the Support Don't Punish campaign’s ‘Global Day of Action’.

Below are highlights of the ‘Global Day of Action’ 2015 in CAHR countries.

India

India HIV/AIDS Alliance, Indian Drug Users’ Forum (IDUF), Delhi Drug Users Forum and community partners organized a rally at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi to promote respect for the human rights of people who use drugs and raise awareness on how punitive laws impede access to essential health services. More than 200 people participated. A petition calling for drug law and policy reforms was submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Following the solidarity rally, a panel discussion was held at the Constitution Club of India. The main focus of the discussion was on ‘Solutions to the Drug Problem: what’s working and what’s not working in India’. Participants from across New Delhi came together to be a part of the global ‘Support. Don’t Punish’ campaign to highlight the harm that is being caused by the criminalization of people who use drugs.  The day’s events brought together policymakers, government representatives, representatives of UN agencies, media, civil society organizations and concerned individuals.

In Bihar, Haryana and Uttarakhand, our harm reduction project teams together with SDUF Members and NGO partners organized state level actions that included rallies, signature campaigns, street plays etc to promote respect for the human rights of people who use drugs and raise awareness of the harms being caused by criminalisation. Petitions were submitted to heads of Police, Healthcare and Administration departments highlighting stigma and discrimination faced by PWID at healthcare facilities, the need for increased access to OST services and client friendly treatment facilities. There were more than 100 participants in each of the state events.

Malaysia

On 26 June 2015, the Malaysian AIDS Council participated in the ‘Global Day of Action’ for ‘Support. Don't Punish’ via the release a technical brief on drug harms, the release of the 2014 Human Rights and HIV Mitigation Report (2015 release edition), a HCV rapid testing event for the urban poor in the Chow Kit area in Kuala Lumpur, and social media photo events.

The testing event was held from 5-7pm on 26 June 2015 in the premises of Ikhlas, a MAC partner organisation that provides needle-and-syringe exchange services. Food, beverages and ‘Support. Don't Punish’ T-Shirts were given out in addition to HCV rapid testing, which was carried out with the assistance of a Ministry of Health doctor and nurse. 57 people were tested, composing of 46 males, 7 females, and 4 transgender participants with a mean age of 41.48 years old. 28 persons tested preliminarily HCV positive, i.e. 49.12% of the total number. The War on Drugs creates undue obstacles for people who use drugs to access HCV and other services. Given the disease burden, there is a need to address these obstacles and create an environment that is more conducive to service provision and access to medicines.

The Technical Brief on Drug Harms summarised the present drug policy situation in Malaysia, including the fact that despite punitive drug policies (i.e. incarceration, judicial corporal punishment, and the death penalty), arrests for drug use continued to increase, and that there is a transition towards the use of various amphetamine-type substances, consistent with trends all over the world. The Technical Brief recommends that drug policy be 'fit for purpose' and therefore must, among other things, redefine drugs as primarily a health and social issue, include alternatives to criminalisation including diversion to health and welfare services, and propose a realistic and pragmatic substitute to the ASEAN drug-free target.

The 2014 HIV and Human Rights Mitigation Report (2015 release edition) detailed efforts done towards mitigating individual human rights complaints lodged with the Malaysian AIDS Council in 2014 and larger policy implications. The report detailed one case in particular where an individual was refused access to anti-retrovirals in police custody, and told that if a bribe was given, all types of medication would be able to brought in. The War on Drugs creates environments which encourage violations of the right to health, and environments where vulnerable persons to be exploited for personal gain.

On social media, persons not involved with the ‘Support. Don't Punish’ campaign were asked to post pictures of themselves wearing the SdP T-shirt (T-shirts were given beforehand to interested persons), representing people from the wider society who are against the War on Drugs.

Kenya

The activities for the ‘Day of Action’ in Kenya were supported by Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO), through the International Drug Policy Consortium and were held at Kawangware - one of the most populous residential areas in Nairobi. It is a mixed mid and low income area. Kawangware is also one of the areas that have a high population of drug users and the homeground for Kenya Network of People who use Drugs ( KeNPUD).

The activities started off at 11:00am in the morning, members of KeNPUD assembled at a spot that was designated in Kawangware. Members wearing ‘Support. Don’t punish’ T-shirts with banners, walked around the Kawangware town, chanting ‘Support. Don’t punish’ slogans. All this was geared towards reminding community members of this important day, and discussing the theme, ‘Support, Don’t Punish’. The messages adopted locally for the banners for the event were ‘empowered communities, healthy people’. These messages were suggested by members of KeNPUD.

The main event was held at an open field, open to members of the public. In main guests at the event were members of the county assembly Uthiru Ward and the administrative chief of Uthiru. The ask for KeNPUD members was requesting for work opportunities for drug users, especially the ones on methadone programme who need a sustainable livelihood programme. They addressed the gathering, highlighting on issues of drug use and the importance of health services for people involved n drug use, as well as efforts to control drug use.

A short skit was performed to highlight the plight PWUD face when they encounter harsh laws and policies and a hostile social environment, and how these would go a long way in hindering them from accessing necessary health services.

Recovering as well as active drug users were given a chance to talk about the changes they had experienced in their lives as a result of drug use, and the challenges they faced.

The procession was then flagged off officially, and went round with performances and messages on the need to be supportive to drug users and assist them in accessing the necessary health services. Overall, the attendance was great, and drug users were given a chance to discuss setbacks they face in accessing health services.