At the 60th Commission on Narcotic Drugs this month – the annual UN meeting on drug policy, which takes place in Vienna – the world’s governments agreed a series of resolutions as they do every year. This year, however, this list included – for the first time in Vienna – a specific resolution calling attention to the harm reduction and HIV funding crisis.

Resolution 60/12 is the latest in a long line of CND resolutions focused on the HIV epidemic among people who use drugs (see box). But it is the first to call so explicitly for increased funding for this issue, and therefore represents another step forward in the debates that take place in Vienna.

The Resolution – the draft version of which can be found here – acknowledges the appalling 33% increase in new HIV infections among people who inject drugs (from 114,000 cases in 2011 to 152,000 in 2015, as reported by UNAIDS) – during a period when governments had pledged to reduce infections by 50 percent. It also acknowledged that donor government investments in HIV/AIDS in low- and middle-income countries declined by more than $1 billion in 2015.

The Norwegian delegation celebrating after the adoption of the Costa Rican, Guatemalan and Norwegian co-sponsored resolution.

The Resolution then calls on member states to “ensure continued political commitment to effectively addressing and countering HIV/AIDS among people who use drugs” in light of the Sustainable Development Goals, and then calls on UNODC to continue its “leadership and guidance”.

Crucially, it also “Urges Member States and other donors to continue to provide bilateral and other funding for the global HIV/AIDS response, including to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS”, and “Encourages Member States and other donors to make extrabudgetary contributions to the HIV/AIDS work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to secure adequately financed, targeted and sustainable responses related to HIV and drug use, and HIV in prison settings”.

A number of government delegations in Vienna fought hard for this language, and in doing so showed their commitment to, and support for, the UNODC HIV/AIDS Section who had half of their funding inexplicably withdrawn by UNAIDS in 2016 and who continue to operate in financial uncertainty. UNODC is one of the 11 co-sponsors of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS – and the lead for HIV among injecting drug users and in prison settings. The Resolution was proposed and led by Norway, and was eventually co-sponsored by Andorra, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Liechtenstein, Malta (on behalf of all 28 EU Member States), Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Uruguay and the USA.

It is a crucial time for the HIV-related harm reduction response, with the Global Fund recently announcing its new funding allocations for countries and a new Catalytic Investment Framework designed (in part, to channel additional resources to programmes for key populations such as people who inject drugs), and UNAIDS commissioning a Global Review Panel to make important recommendations about the future model and working of UNAIDS in light of ongoing funding concerns surrounding the global HIV response. This latest resolution from the CND in Vienna should go some way towards helping the situation, but there remains much work to be done by the harm reduction sector to ensure the funding needed to improve coverage and quality and end AIDS among people who use drugs.

CND Resolutions on HIV:

Res. 60/12 (2017): Promoting measures to prevent HIV and other blood-borne diseases associated with the use of drugs, and increasing financing for the global HIV/AIDS response and for drug use prevention and other drug demand reduction measures

Res. 56/6 (2013) Intensifying the efforts to achieve the targets of the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS among people who use drugs, in particular the target to reduce HIV transmission among people who inject drugs by 50 per cent by 2015

Res. 54/13 (2011) Achieving zero new infections of HIV among injecting and other drug users

Res. 53/9 (2010) Achieving universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support for drug users and people living with or affected by HIV

Res. 51/14 (2008) Promoting coordination and alignment of decisions between the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Programme Coordinating Board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS

Res. 49/4 (2006) Responding to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases among drug users

Res. 48/12 (2005) Expanding the capacity of communities to provide information, treatment, health care and social services to people living with HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases in the context of drug abuse and strengthening monitoring, evaluation and reporting systems

Res. 47/2 (2004) Prevention of HIV/AIDS among drug users

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