Two years after the initial launch during the ICAAP in Colombo, the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD), the only regional network of drug users in Asia, is forging ahead and being formalized as an active organization driven by its membership.

Indeed, in the past two years, several key members of the network have invested significant time and energy in building structures within the network to ensure the organization’s responsiveness to the needs of people who use drugs in Asia. Specifically, ANPUD’s constitution is currently being finalized and members are discussing official registration in Asia.  Membership criteria are included in the constitution and further information will be circulated shortly to inform potential constituents how to join the network.

Although the process of formalizing governance and registration has been spread over the last two years, the network and its members have been active in several areas.  Members of ANPUD have been invited onto various committees and platforms such as the UNAIDS Program Coordinating Board (PCB), the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the UN Regional Task Force on Injecting Drug Use and HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific and the Executive of the Asian Consortium on Drugs, HIV, AIDS and Poverty being some of the recent ones.

ANPUD and the Asian Consortium on Drugs, HIV, AIDS and Poverty (also known as Response Beyond Borders or RBB) have organized several meetings, beginning with the First Asian Consultation on Drugs, HIV, AIDS and Poverty in Goa, India, in early 2008 – where the Goa Declaration was released. Follow-up workshops were organized in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in October 2008, Kathmandu, Nepal in February 2009 and during a WHO-UNODC supported workshop during the 20th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug related Harm in Bangkok in April 2009. These meetings have been critical to unite members around a common platform, understanding of the different needs of drug using communities spread across Asia and determining the next steps.

In addition, ANPUD is represented on the Board of INPUD (the International Network of People who Use Drugs) to facilitate cooperation and collaboration at the international level. However, it should be clear that ANPUD is an independent organization with its own mission and vision and not a subsidiary organization of INPUD. A key member of ANPUD recently stated that “without INPUD there is no ANPUD and vice-versa.” The co-dependency between the networks is fundamentally grounded in the core issues of human rights abuses and universal access that both networks are addressing.

Among these issues, and central to ANPUD is the ‘MIPUD principle’ coined during the Bangkok meeting – ’Meaningful Involvement of People who Use Drugs’ in all aspects of policy and programming related to drug use and HIV and Hepatitis C prevention. “Nothing about us, without us’ is another principle that is fundamental to ANPUD’s philosophy. ANPUD has already made important achievements in actively engaging with the Global Fund, UN agencies notably UNAIDS, WHO and UNODC, Funding Bodies, the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) and some governments in Asia around the MIPUD principle.

In short, the development of ANPUD has seen a growing consciousness among members of network functions, the challenges involved in representation of large populations with diverse needs, and the opportunities for mobilizing support for the network and its members.

However, the road ahead is still fraught with challenges for the burgeoning leadership within ANPUD.  First and foremost, ANPUD is operating in a culturally and linguistically diverse region where the human rights of drug users are regularly violated and access to harm reduction services is poor. Limited access to modern communication technologies for people who use drugs in Asia remains a huge barrier. Resource mobilization – both in terms of human and financial resources – is also a key issue in developing a sustainable network. Furthermore, the unfavorable legal and policy environments in Asia are sure to create hurdles for ANPUD when linking with nascent or established drug user networks.

Jimmy Dorabjee who is coordinating the development of ANPUD until a Steering Committee is established noted that “Building confidence and capacity within the network is critical to self determination and must be linked to local drug user networks if capacity is to be shared effectively across Asia. ANPUD has gained respect, credibility and support from a range of key stakeholders including UNAIDS, WHO and UNODC. With the current supportive environment, the time has come to firmly embed and integrate the MIPUD principle into UN, civil society and Government policies and initiatives across the Asian Region’.

In the near future, the establishment and growth of ANPUD will translate to increased involvement of people who use drugs in policy and programming dialogues, greater consistency across advocacy messages and platforms, easier access for community representation and an increase in evidence informed interventions for drug users across the Asian region. Even though much remains to be done, for the members of ANPUD the last two years have demonstrated the power of collective action.

For more information about ANPUD, please contact

Jimmy Dorabjee: jimmyd@burnet.edu.au
Yvonne Sibuea: perempuancahaya@gmail.com
Prem Limbu: subbaprem@gmail.com
Shiba Phurailatpam: shiba.p@gmail.com
Dean Lewis: deanlewis.ind@gmail.com

Source: SEA-AIDS (sea-aids@eforums.healthdev.org)