Following the conclusion of the 25th International Harm Reduction Conference that took place in Montréal last week, the Bridging the Gaps alliance issued a statement: The Montréal Declaration on the right of people who use drugs to be protected from state sanctioned violence.

In an era of rising populism and heightened political repression around the world, communities most affected by HIV are experiencing an escalation in state sanctioned violence fuelled by pervasive stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs, and divisive rhetoric about law, order and public health. For example in Indonesia, where alarmist rhetoric has led to the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty for drug offences. The communities most affected include people who use drugs, sex workers, and LGBT people, with specific concern for transgender people, gay men and other men who have sex with men.

The criminalisation of people who use drugs infringes on our fundamental rights to health, family life, privacy and dignity as well as our fundamental rights to be free from torture and discrimination. Punitive approaches to drug use are seriously misguided, ethically moribund and a clear indicator of weak governance that needs to be challenged by people who use drugs, and their allies. People who use drugs, sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people and networks of people living with HIV need to work together to build humane, effective and supportive responses to drug use rather than revert back to retrograde, inhumane and destructive responses. As such, we recognize that we are at a pivotal moment in our work to stop the campaign of harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, violence and murder of people who use drugs.

The full statement can be read on the website of alliance partner The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+).

Members of the media are invited to contact Coco Jervis, J.D., Advocay Officer of GNP+ via mail cjervis@gnpplus.net or phone: +31 (0)6 387 55 040.