God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

In between Helsinki and St. Petersburg

Being a chaplain to sea means to be away from the usual “always being connected” and living in an environment so completely different from the usual daily life in South Africa. More than 800 people constantly around you, from which are almost 300 on board to make the life pleasurable for the rest of . As the “Grosse Ostseereise” means many ports to call on, it also means that almost every day I am somewhere on shore to go with a busload full of passengers and a local guide exploring the respective country. Little time to focus on TV, news and there-like.
Nevertheless I try to keep myself informed and note with excitement, that the dialogue between Archbishop Zollitsch and the signatories of the “Freiburg Aufruf” concerning the divorced-re-married couples seems to go well and that all parties are concerned about the problem and wish to get it right and end the discrimination of those in question. Ideals can never be enforced by punishing those who have failed for the rest of their lives. Good to hear reason in this case also from the authority.
Also news from Uganda with their madness to re-introduce the death penalty and other harsh measures to punish those being born gay and trying to live out their affection for a person of the same-sex. It will never match my understanding of logic and God’s love that the church punishes those affected with life-long celibacy claiming that God wants it like this. It will one day end up like the quest to abolish slavery, because at the end, we ask them to be obeying slaves of an idea connected with a hostile look at sexuality instead embracing and emphasizing their love and the newest academic research on this subject.
In Kenya, I note, HIV rates are climbing with those using drugs by injecting them. The topic of needle exchange versus a conservative view of society will have to be solved in favor of protecting those who are depended on drugs. It might be the first step into getting drug users off in keeping them alive and healthy in a way.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

POZ Magazine: HIV Drug Development Stalls

Companies that develop HIV drugs are at a standstill in bringing new medicines to market, Bloomberg reports. Of the 31 HIV meds on the market, only six were approved after 2004; Intelence was the last drug approved—and that was three years ago. The newest antiretrovirals are much safer and more effective, have fewer side effects and must be taken less frequently. As a result, the bar for bringing new drugs to market has gotten higher and fewer drugs are in the pipeline. This also means that HIV-positive people who develop drug resistance have fewer treatment options.

Source:  Poz Magazine

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, , , ,

POZ Magazine: Free Crack Pipes for HIV Prevention in Seattle

The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, a Seattle-based nonprofit group, has started a new program that hands out free crack pipes to reduce HIV transmission, Hip-Hop Wired reports. The group claims cuts on the mouth from broken pipes contribute to HIV transmission. The group also runs a needle exchange program for intravenous drug users. Studies support needle exchange programs for HIV prevention, officials said, but no similar studies exist for distributing free crack pipes.

Source: http://www.poz.com/rssredir/articles/free_crack_pipes_seattle_1_18914.shtml

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, , , ,

Vienna Declaration Seeks Changes to “War on Drugs”

Please read and sign the Vienna Declaration on: http://www.viennadeclaration.com/the-declaration.html


The Vienna Declaration

The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in
overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed.

In response to the health and social harms of illegal drugs, a large international drug prohibition regime has been developed under the umbrella of the United Nations.1 Decades of research provide a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of the global “War on Drugs” and, as thousands of individuals gather in Vienna at the XVIII International AIDS Conference, the international scientific community calls for an acknowledgement of the limits and harms of drug prohibition, and for drug policy reform to remove barriers to effective HIV prevention, treatment and care.

The evidence that law enforcement has failed to prevent the availability of illegal drugs, in communities where there is demand, is now unambiguous.2, 3Over the last several decades, national and international drug surveillance systems have demonstrated a general pattern of falling drug prices and increasing drug purity—despite massive investments in drug law enforcement.3,4

Furthermore, there is no evidence that increasing the ferocity of law enforcement meaningfully reduces the prevalence of drug use.5 The data also clearly demonstrate that the number of countries in which people inject illegal drugs is growing, with women and children becoming increasingly affected.6 Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, injection drug use accounts for approximately one in three new cases of HIV.7, 8 In some areas where HIV is spreading most rapidly, such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, HIV prevalence can be as high as 70% among people who inject drugs, and in some areas more than 80% of all HIV cases are among this group.8

In the context of overwhelming evidence that drug law enforcement has failed to achieve its stated objectives, it is important that its harmful consequences be acknowledged and addressed. These consequences include but are not limited to:

  • HIV epidemics fuelled by the criminalisation of people who use illicit drugs and by prohibitions on the provision of sterile needles and opioid substitution treatment.9, 10
  • HIV outbreaks among incarcerated and institutionalised drug users as a result of punitive laws and policies and a lack of HIV prevention services in these settings.11-13
  • The undermining of public health systems when law enforcement drives drug users away from prevention and care services and into environments where the risk of infectious disease transmission (e.g., HIV, hepatitis C & B, and tuberculosis) and other harms is increased.14-16
  • A crisis in criminal justice systems as a result of record incarceration rates in a number of nations.17, 18 This has negatively affected the social functioning of entire communities. While racial disparities in incarceration rates for drug offences are evident in countries all over the world, the impact has been particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement.19
  • Stigma towards people who use illicit drugs, which reinforces the political popularity of criminalising drug users and undermines HIV prevention and other health promotion efforts.20, 21
  • Severe human rights violations, including torture, forced labour, inhuman and degrading treatment, and execution of drug offenders in a number of countries.22, 23
  • A massive illicit market worth an estimated annual value of US$320 billion.4 These profits remain entirely outside the control of government. They fuel crime, violence and corruption in countless urban communities and have destabilised entire countries, such as Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan.4
  • Billions of tax dollars wasted on a “War on Drugs” approach to drug control that does not achieve its stated objectives and, instead, directly or indirectly contributes to the above harms.24

Unfortunately, evidence of the failure of drug prohibition to achieve its stated goals, as well as the severe negative consequences of these policies, is often denied by those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo.25This has created confusion among the public and has cost countless lives. Governments and international organisations have ethical and legal obligations to respond to this crisis and must seek to enact alternative evidence-based strategies that can effectively reduce the harms of drugs without creating harms of their own. We, the undersigned, call on governments and international organisations, including the United Nations, to:

  • Undertake a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies.
  • Implement and evaluate a science-based public health approach to address the individual and community harms stemming from illicit drug use.
  • Decriminalise drug users, scale up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options and abolish ineffective compulsory drug treatment centres that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.26
  • Unequivocally endorse and scale up funding for the implementation of the comprehensive package of HIV interventions spelled out in the WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS Target Setting Guide.27
  • Meaningfully involve members of the affected community in developing, monitoring and implementing services and policies that affect their lives.

We further call upon the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to urgently implement measures to ensure that the United Nations system—including the International Narcotics Control Board—speaks with one voice to support the decriminalisation of drug users and the implementation of evidence-based approaches to drug control.28

Basing drug policies on scientific evidence will not eliminate drug use or the problems stemming from drug injecting. However, reorienting drug policies towards evidence-based approaches that respect, protect and fulfil human rights has the potential to reduce harms deriving from current policies and would allow for the redirection of the vast financial resources towards where they are needed most: implementing and evaluating evidence-based prevention, regulatory, treatment and harm reduction interventions.

1. William B McAllister. Drug diplomacy in the twentieth century: an international history. Routledge, New York, 2000.
2. Reuter P. Ten years after the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS): assessing drug problems, policies and reform proposals. Addiction 2009;104:510-7.
3. United States Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Price and Purity of Illicit Drugs: 1981 through the Second Quarter of 2003. Executive Office of the President;
Washington, DC, 2004.
4. World Drug Report 2005. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; 2005.
5. Degenhardt L, Chiu W-T, Sampson N, et al. Toward a global view of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and cocaine use: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys.
PLOS Medicine 2008;5:1053-67.
6. Mathers BM, Degenhardt L, Phillips B, et al. Global epidemiology of injecting drug use and HIV among people who inject drugs: A systematic review. Lancet
7. Wolfe D, Malinowska-Sempruch K. Illicit drug policies and the global HIV epidemic: Effects of UN and national government approaches. New York: Open Society
Institute; 2004.
8. 2008 Report on the global AIDS epidemic. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS; Geneva, 2008.
9. Lurie P, Drucker E. An opportunity lost: HIV infections associated with lack of a national needle-exchange programme in the USA. Lancet 1997;349:604.
10. Rhodes T, Lowndes C, Judd A, et al. Explosive spread and high prevalence of HIV infection among injecting drug users in Togliatti City, Russia. AIDS 2002;16:F25.
11. Taylor A, Goldberg D, Emslie J, et al. Outbreak of HIV infection in a Scottish prison. British Medical Journal 1995;310:289.
12. Sarang A, Rhodes T, Platt L, et al. Drug injecting and syringe use in the HIV risk environment of Russian penitentiary institutions: qualitative study. Addiction
13. Jurgens R, Ball A, Verster A. Interventions to reduce HIV transmission related to injecting drug use in prison. Lancet Infectious Disease 2009;9:57-66.
14. Davis C, Burris S, Metzger D, Becher J, Lynch K. Effects of an intensive street-level police intervention on syringe exchange program utilization: Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. American Journal of Public Health 2005;95:233.
15. Bluthenthal RN, Kral AH, Lorvick J, Watters JK. Impact of law enforcement on syringe exchange programs: A look at Oakland and San Francisco. Medical Anthropology
16. Rhodes T, Mikhailova L, Sarang A, et al. Situational factors influencing drug injecting, risk reduction and syringe exchange in Togliatti City, Russian Federation: a
qualitative study of micro risk environment. Social Science & Medicine 2003;57:39.
17. Fellner J, Vinck P. Targeting blacks: Drug law enforcement and race in the United States. New York: Human Rights Watch; 2008.
18. Drucker E. Population impact under New York’s Rockefeller drug laws: An analysis of life years lost. Journal of Urban Health 2002;79:434-44.
19. Warren J, Gelb A, Horowitz J, Riordan J. One in 100: Behind bars in America 2008. The Pew Center on the States Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts 2008.
20. Rhodes T, Singer M, Bourgois P, Friedman SR, Strathdee SA. The social structural production of HIV risk among injecting drug users. Social Science & Medicine 2005;61:1026.
21. Ahern J, Stuber J, Galea S. Stigma, discrimination and the health of illicit drug users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2007;88:188.
22. Elliott R, Csete J, Palepu A, Kerr T. Reason and rights in global drug control policy. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2005;172:655-6.
23. Edwards G, Babor T, Darke S, et al. Drug trafficking: time to abolish the death penalty. Addiction 2009;104:3.
24. The National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (2001).  Shoveling up: The impact of substance abuse on State budgets.

25. Wood E, Montaner JS, Kerr T. Illicit drug addiction, infectious disease spread, and the need for an evidence-based response. Lancet Infectious Diseases
26. Klag S, O’Callaghan F, Creed P. The use of legal coercion in the treatment of substance abusers: An overview and critical analysis of thirty years of research. Substance
Use & Misuse 2005;40:1777.
27. WHO, UNODC, UNAIDS 2009. Technical Guide for countries to set targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care for injection drug users.

28. Wood E, Kerr T. Could a United Nations organisation lead to a worsening of drug-related harms? Drug and Alcohol Review 2010;29:99-100.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Uncategorized, , , ,

14.02.2010 Valentine Day, drugs and social structures..

Three services at Milnerton church, 3 kids baptized, one lekker luncheon and a decent dinner – this weekend had enough of its own but at the end I feel, that I still had enough time to do some office work in between.
Valentine’s Day and I reminded the churchgoers this evening that Valentine was originally a Catholic feast before the Americans took over and commercialized it in a way one cannot see the origin anymore.
On the same weekend it happened that I was reading about the drug war in Mexico – about the mounting dead toll and – according to the article the growing understanding, that the problem cannot be solved militarily.  The article hinted that more and more South American states were thinking about legalizing the drugs and so to strip the black market and all the crime going with it. I am not sure how they want to do it, but I also think meanwhile, seeing all the criminal behaviour attached to recreational drug use, that to ease the restrictions could be a way forward. The Netherlands have shown that legalizing marijuana in a certain way does not mean to get more people on drugs but to ease the work of the police and to relax the situation. Without advocating the complete decriminalization of all drugs I am certainly convinced, that a radical re-think of the problem only can help us to get a grip on the drama, unfolding in many countries of the world.  I am also thinking of medical marijuana for terminal ill or chronically ill persons – why not? It makes sense to me and when I see how easy our society is with alcohol and tobacco, yes – still tobacco if you look at it from a global point – then I guess a re-think would do good in many ways.

Well, I am sure that now some readers are jumping, asking how a priest can advocate such a solution for drugs. I do advocate nothing, but I certainly do think that we have to think out of the box to tackle the problem – especially also in South Africa.

Another article which got me thinking was a German article talking about Mr. Westerwelle attacking the social security system of our system in connection with “Hartz IV”,  which regulates the grant, people without work get in Germany. I am convinced that Hartz IV is against certain human rights and certainly the way it is impemented is against the dignity of people and we have to re-think it again, but in a complete different way than he thinks we should do it. Hartz IV and the poverty, which also affects people living with HIV and AIDS is certainly for Germans a point to reflect on. The staggering attacks of the politician on the social fabric of the German society sounds definitely not right in my point of view but shows how far politicians have distanced themselves from the realities of life.  I agree with him, that is unfair that somebody working can earn less than the grant, but it is not the grant which is wrong but the earning of that person. All this cheap labour, introduced in the last years in Germany in the spell of the delusion that de-regulations of the markets are doing all miracles for the economic grows of  a country, is simply wrong.

Well, you see, lots of food for thoughts – and that just on the Valentines weekend…

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

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