`Care and support services not always available to drug users living with HIV in state`

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IMPHAL, October 16: The Community Network for Empowerment “CoNE”, a state level network of 13 community based organisations (CBOs) of people who use drugs in Manipur will observe the International Drug User Day on November 1, with a fortnight long mass campaign starting from October 17 to November 1 under the theme “A new beginning for a long journey”, stated RK Nolikanta president CoNE.

Speaking at a press conference held at its office today R.K. Nolinikanta while announcing new commitments in response to drug use issues, HIV and Hepatitis C, highlighted that “in addition to being vulnerable to HIV, people who use drugs are vulnerable to viral hepatitis and tuberculosis infections, sexually transmitted infections, other bacterial infections and death by overdose.

The prevalence of infection of hepatitis C, which is more infectious than HIV, among people who inject drugs in many districts of Manipur has been reported to be even higher, in some cases as high as 90 per cent.”

“The HIV response is insufficiently grounded in evidence and fails to meet international legal obligations to promote, protect and respect human rights. As a result, drug users living with HIV are subjected to a double stigma and often experience discrimination when attempting to access HIV prevention services. Care and support services are frequently unavailable to them and those that are available are generally not tailored to their specific needs, even in instances where programming and funding for HIV programs have otherwise expanded considerably,” he added.

He further stated “The International Drug users day, November 1 is about listening to what the marginalized population of people who use drugs have to say and look toward effective and humane ways of responding to the issue. It is the day marking the importance of being heard as member of the society about the issues that invariably contribute towards the development of a healthier society”.

CoNE will be organizing road shows in all districts, quiz, seminar at Manipur University, blood donation, poster campaign, music concerts etc. to raise awareness about the dignity and respect of human life, access to care, treatment and support systems for people who use drugs. The observation will give the opportunity of coming together of people who use drugs and various community stakeholders-law enforcement agencies, health care workers and community leaders underlying the need to involve the people who use drugs as citizens in the response to the drug use menace and its related consequences. The final culmination of the campaign will be organised at BOAT on 1st November 2011, he added.

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