This day and age, it’s not unusual to find someone who thinks the War on Drugs is a waste of time and money. But it’s rarer to find an entire commission of esteemed global leaders willing to say such a thing. This week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report calling on countries of the world to not only reevaluate their approach but dramatically shift the way they handle drug offenses. The failing drug war fueling the HIV/AIDs epidemic is just one reason to reevaluate how things are done.
War on Drugs and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic
According to CBC News, former Supreme Court justice and former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Louise Arbour characterized the current situation as a “public health disaster” and a “colossal waste” of money.
She isn’t alone in her sentiments. The Commission features six former presidents from around the world, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, and famous British businessman Richard Branson. It is largely considered the most esteemed panel on drug policies ever gathered.
The report links the drug war to the HIV/AIDS epidemic – higher infection rates – saying one-third of all new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa can be directly linked to unsafe drug use. Because addicts are afraid of being sent to prison, they hide their addictions, believing that asking for help is also asking for imprisonment.
Prohibition isn’t working, according to the Commission. They report that it may even be driving increased crime, by forcing otherwise nonviolent offenders to engage in risky behavior in order to obtain drugs.
Also, they point out that global drug supply has not been reduced at all by the current law enforcement policies. Heroin, for example, has increased by “more than 380 percent in recent decades.”
According to the Commission’s official website, these are the recommendations they have for leaders and policy makers around the world:
- Push national governments to halt the practice of arresting and imprisoning people who use drugs but do no harm to others.
- Measure drug policy success by indicators that have real meaning in communities, such as reduced rates of transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases, fewer overdose deaths, reduced drug market violence, fewer individuals incarcerated and lowered rates of problematic substance use.
- Respond to the fact that HIV risk behavior resulting from repressive drug control policies and under-funding of evidence-based approaches is the main issue driving the HIV/AIDS epidemic in many regions of the world.
- Act urgently: The war on drugs has failed, and millions of new HIV infections and AIDS deaths can be averted if action is taken now.