By Camille Stengel
The UN has declared Tuesday, 10 December as Human Rights Day. The theme this year is ‘20 Years Working for Your Rights’, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has been established. Among the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is article 25, stating that ‘everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being’ for themselves and their family. The Blue Point Foundation has been striving to uphold article 25 since 1996, and aims to celebrate 20 years of operation in 2016.
The Blue Point Foundation is a Hungarian NGO that provides a range of services for one of the most stigmatized groups in society: injecting drug users. Blue Point’s needle exchange programme, the largest in Hungary, is located in the impoverished VIII district in Budapest. The programme responds to the needs of the client population living in the area by providing services such as needles exchange, outreach and prevention programmes, as well as pioneering programmes including a women’s only day at the needle exchange location, a City Art Workshop for young people, and harm reduction party services.
The work of Blue Point is recognised internationally. The MAC AIDS Fund has recently awarded Blue Point the equivalent of almost £14,000 to continue their services in the VIII district, including the implementation of on-site rapid HIV and hepatitis C testing. This is the second year in a row Blue Point has been granted this award by the MAC AIDS Fund.
This year Blue Point was also awarded a grant from the Norway Civil Fund to develop innovative peer-led services at the needle exchange location. This project is based on an intervention model of care, and is the first of its kind in Hungary. The uniqueness of this pilot project is the key role needle exchange clients have in developing and adapting the centre’s services and outputs in partnership with volunteers and workers of Blue Point.
While international funders continue to acknowledge and support the valuable work of Blue Point, the local VIII district council in Budapest has chosen to ignore the centre’s collaborations within the community. During a council meeting in mid-September of this year, the representatives of the council voted to terminate the 2010 agreement that covered cooperation between Blue Point and the local government. This agreement will end on 31 December 2013. Blue Point already operates in an unfavourable political environment in Hungary, as the new National Drug Strategy that was enforced in July 2013 includes criminalising the consumption of drugs and enforcing more strict penalties for drug related offences.
International evidence has consistently affirmed that needle exchange programmes and other harm reduction initiatives are effective public health measures and reducing drug related harms including the spread of infectious diseases. It is baffling that the VIII district council has chosen ideology over evidence-based research to make their decision. Human rights organisations such at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union have voiced their opposition to the decision of the VIII district council’s decision.
On Human Rights Day 2013, the Budapest council of the VIII district should be reminded that their decision to end the agreement with Blue Point is a statement against supporting the most vulnerable people in their district. Taking steps to ensuring human rights of all citizens, especially those in most need of help, means continuing to cooperate with health and social services designed to respond to those needs.
Every signature counts; please show your support to Blue Point by signing the Correlation Network petition here.
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