We want to reverse the cycle in which people who use drugs are stigmatised, trapped in poverty and lack access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.
People who use illegal drugs face severe stigma and discrimination and lack access to much-needed health services. Even when these services are available, many drug users are afraid to make use of them because of fear for imprisonment and human rights abuses. As a result, sharing/using unsterile injecting equipment is the primary route of HIV transmission in many regions in the world. Rather than framing people who use drugs as the problem, Bridging the Gaps considers them as part of the solution in addressing problems associated with drugs and drug policies around the world.
5 things you should know about people who use drugs
- WHO estimates that there are 13 million injecting drug users globally, of whom 1.7 million are living with HIV or AIDS;
- On average one in ten new HIV infections are caused by the sharing of needles;
- People who inject drugs have tuberculosis infections rates 6-10 times higher than the general population, and more than 50% of people who inject drugs globally are living with hepatitis C (6.1 million);
- Drugs are available in prisons. In prisons in Eastern and Central Europe, HIV and TB incidents are 10-20 times higher than in the general population, yet access to decent healthcare services in prisons is very limited;
- Harm reduction works – programmes including needle exchange and opioid substitution services have proven to be effective in reducing HIV transmission and providing effective treatment and care for drug users.
Bridging the Gaps: together with people who use drugs
- We improve the quality of and access to HIV prevention, treatment, continuous care and services for people who use drugs;
- We advocate for needle exchange programmes and opioid substitution programmes;
- We advocate for the provision of harm reduction services in prisons and other confined spaces that are of a standard equal to that available to the general population;
- We integrate existing services and create new ones to ensure adequate access to healthcare that is fully compliant with human rights;
- We improve the human rights and strengthen the capacity of drug user organisations that work on HIV, human rights and harm reduction.
This is part of a comprehensive and concerted approach to addressing the human rights, social justice and public health challenges that the HIV epidemic poses to people who use drugs and their organisations. We work through projects in Georgia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine and South Africa. Country-level projects are strengthened and supported by a global advocacy project for the health and rights of people who use drugs.