By Gen Sander

The Sustainable Development Goals commit the international community to end HIV and combat hepatitis C (HCV) by 2030. The target is unambiguous – if any population continues to be affected after 2030, it will not have been hit. And so goes the mantra: “leave no one behind” in the global HIV and HCV response. But the 2016 Global State of Harm Reduction report by Harm Reduction International (HRI) shows that one population particularly vulnerable to HIV and HCV – prisoners – continues to be wilfully left behind.

At the root of the problem is the widespread prohibitionist approach to drug control, which favours criminalisation and punishment over health and welfare. This has resulted in the mass incarceration of people who use and inject drugs with one in every five prisoners worldwide held on drug-related charges, most for personal use and possession. UNAIDS estimates that up to 90% of people who inject drugs will be incarcerated at some stage in their lives. Unsurprisingly, injecting drug use continues to be documented in prisons in every region of the world and prevalence of HIV and HCV remains significantly higher inside than outside of prisons across the globe.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC Rob.