Ex-drug users want hand in policy-making

Kathmandu, November 6:

In order to check increasing HIV prevalence among Injecting Drug Users (IDU), recovering drug users need to be included in the process of formulating drafts and also should be involved in rehabilitation and treatment centres, former drug users said today.

Rajiv Kafle, chairman of the National Association of People Living With HIV/AIDS said that the government and other donor agencies need to broaden their horizon while addressing the HIV epidemic among drug users.

“Gone are the days when drug users could be checked by locking them up in a room or stopping the smuggling of drugs,” said Kafle. “The government should give top priority to the programmes or else it would pose a serious problem in the country.”

Recovering Nepal is organising the first National Conference on Drug Abuse and Drug led HIV on November 14 and 15 with the motive of addressing the problem of HIV among IDUs. A total of 500 participants are expected to attend the conference.

Rishi Ojha, chairman of the National Network of Harm Reduction Council said that there was a need to involve recovering drug users in the rehabilitation and treatment centres and also while drafting the policies regarding HIV prevalence among IDUs.

“Since they have gone through the same phase and have recovered from using drugs, they could make a significant difference,” said Ojha. “Resources need to be distributed evenly so that the real group at the grass roots level can benefit from the programme.”

According to UNAIDS 2004, HIV prevalence is 50 per cent among IDUs in Nepal while Thailand has 53 per cent HIV prevalence among IDUs. There are an estimated 60,000 drug users in Nepal. Among them, approximately 70 per cent are injecting drug users.

According to Family Health International, 2002, Kathmandu city alone has 70 per cent HIV prevalence among IDUs. The recovering drug users’ movement gained momentum only in the mid-90s. There are an estimated 3000 recovering drug users in Nepal.

“The conference aims to strengthen Recovering Nepal’s network and its capacity throughout the nation and to build partnership with donors and partner organisations, to break down the negative social barriers and increase understanding of negative impact of stigma and discrimination related to drug and drug-induced HIV,” said Bishnu Sharma, coordinator of Richmond Rehabilitation Centre.

Sharma said the conference aims to create pressure groups through advocacy dialogues, reinforce greater involvement of recovering drug users and representative organisations in policy making, create an enabling environment for service providers and expand collaboration with the international agencies.