The World Health Organization called for decriminalization of personal drug use
In the report by the World Health Organization announced in July this year with guidelines for prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS among key populations, publicly called for the decriminalization of personal drug use.
Based on the data from this report, in 49 countries, the risk of infection with HIV is on average, 22 times higher among people who inject drugs than the general population. It is estimated that 40% of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe occur among people who inject drugs and their sexual partners.
In many of these countries harsh penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use, and mandatory detention as a form of "treatment" of people who use drugs, are barriers to implementation of effective and efficient interventions for HIV/AIDS among people who use drugs. Many of them are afraid to seek health services because they are afraid of the legal consequences and remain outside the scope of existing services for HIV/AIDS and the health system.
WHO therefore recommends that:
• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.
• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs) and that legalize OST for people who are opioid-dependent.
• Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs.
WHO proposal relates exclusively to personal drug use, and not cover cultivation, production and trafficking.
In the same report as an example of good practice the case of Portugal is presented, which along with another 20 countries worldwide, took steps to decriminalize personal possession and use of drugs until 2012.
Portugal changed its legislation in 2001 to turn possession of controlled drugs into an “administrative offence”, with those caught with drugs for personal use being sent to a “dissuasion board” rather than face prosecution and possible jailing.
An independent study examined the impact of the changes and found that:
• The number of drug users in treatment expanded from 23 654 in 1998 to 38 532 in 2008.
• Between 2000 and 2008 the annual number of new cases of HIV among drug users fell from 907 to 267, a decrease attributed to the expansion of harm reduction services.
• Contrary to predictions, major increases in drug use did not take place; instead, evidence indicated reductions in high risk (problematic) use, drug-related harms and overcrowding of the criminal
(taken from the Transform web site)