Inspired by Sir Richard Branson and the Nekker Island Retreat for the Heads of Government of the 15 independent countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Representatives of the Latin American Network of People Who Use Drugs (LANPUD) and the Caribbean Network of People Who Use Drugs (CARIPUD) met in retreat in Castries, Saint Lucia to discuss the state of affairs among people who use drugs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Hosted by the Caribbean Drug and Alcohol Research Institute, the retreat was guided by Chatham House Rules and further the identities of the individuals attending is kept confidential given the oppression some participants live under.  

The consensus of the retreat that there is a general lack of concern for the health and social consequences of people who use drugs in the Americas and especially those particularly vulnerable persons using coca based stimulants in an environment of racism, repression and a hyper-criminality encouraged by the perpetuation of the War on Drugs in the Americas. 

HIV rates among people who smoke crack cocaine are often 3 to 5 times the national prevalence rates, yet, despite the evidence showing that certain populations of coca based stimulant smokers have elevated rates of HIV, the UN Family continues to ignore the needs of this population.

Where is the Technical Guidance promised by UNODC when experts and community met in San Paulo in 2011. Why aren’t our brothers and sisters of the International Network of People Who Use Drugs championing the HIV prevention needs of people who use crack cocaine, the large majority of them smokers? UN Women: Where are your programmes for women who smoke crack?

LANPUD and CARIPUD join together to call for the UNODC to acknowledge the HIV and other health risks for people who use coca based stimulants and to engage with PAHO and the community of people who use drugs and are affected by HIV to adopt the CDARI Technical Guide to HIV Prevention, Treatment and Care for Stimulant Users to address the issues of HIV among people who use coca based stimulants in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

The suppression of the natural herbal substances of cannabis, coca and poppy that resulted from the enforcement of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs has resulted in the proliferation of other substances, many more harmful, to be used as alternatives. Research has confirmed what community has always known, that natural herbal forms of psychotropic substances are benign at worse and often therapeutic with much less side effects then pharmaceuticals. 

LANPUD and CARIPUD call for a public health campaign to make available and encourage the use of natural plant and herbal forms of cannabis, coca and poppy for people who wish an alternative to the derivatives they currently use. 

LANPUD and CARIPUD further call on the governments of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to stop arresting people who use drugs and allow for the legal sale and growth of cannabis, coca and poppy for personal use.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.