DECRIMINIALISATION, PREVENTION, HUMAN RIGHTS – DAY 3 OF AIDS 2014 Sir Richard Branson, Global Drug Commissioner, joins the debate

One of the key sessions discussed the impact of drug policies on people who inject drugs, the spread of HIV and the co-morbidities of tuberculosis and hepatitis. During this session Global Drug Commissioner, Sir Richard Branson, who joined by video link, said the global war on drugs had failed both in terms of drug and public health outcomes, particularly in relation to HIV and hepatitis C, and that the time has come to replace the criminalisation and punishment of drug users with treatment and health care.

“Drug policy reform should not be seen in isolation” Sir Richard Branson said. “It has the potential to affect change in other areas such as the world’s chronically overcrowded penal system or of reducing the negative impact of policing on some communities.

“Globally, we’re using too much money and far too many precious resources on incarceration when we should be spending this money on education, vocational training, and in the case of drug users, on treatment, proper medical care and re-entry.”

Today’s conference activities (Tuesday 22 July) began with plenary presentations about barriers to effective HIV prevention practice. Issues discussed included strengthening health systems (Olive Shisana of South Africa), overcoming gender inequality (Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet of Namibia), and improving financial investments in HIV responses (Mark Dybul, MD of The Global Fund).

Day two also included two key symposiums: one addressing youth leadership in the global HIV response; and another focussed on how better engagement with the science of HIV can improve access to HIV treatments.

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