The recent World AIDS Day took place on the 1st December 2017 and was focused on the campaign against stigma. INCB’s own contribution to the events was appropriate to this objective, centred as it was on the right to health. Reaffirming that the ultimate goal of the drug control conventions was the promotion of the health and wellbeing of human kind, the Board reminded States Parties of their obligation to ‘ensure the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, while preventing their illicit cultivation and manufacture, diversion, trafficking and abuse’. It went on to highlight the global imbalance in access to medicines containing controlled drugs: around three quarters of the global population lack adequate access to pain relief.

The INCB notes that article 38 of the 1961 Single Convention refers to drug use prevention, as well as to treatment and rehabilitation. It also points to the importance of preventing transmission of the HIV virus amongst people who inject drugs. The Board goes on to state that – ‘The right to health of individuals dependant on opioids directly relates to the availability and non-discriminatory access to treatments, including opiate substitution therapy with internationally controlled substances, such as methadone and buprenorphine.’

It closes with a call on governments to end AIDS through prevention and treatment, and through overall respect for people living with HIV and AIDS.

This is a very laudable sentiment, with which IDPC in principle cannot but agree. However, we note the Board’s description of health and welfare as the ultimate objective of the conventions with a degree of reservation. It should be recalled that these must be also the immediate goal of the drug control regime, here and now. After all, it of little use if one has a set of lofty principles which are remote from actual practice on the ground. To this end, we hope that the Board reiterated its call on governments during its mission to the Russian Federation, undertaken just days after World AIDS Day. For the Russian Federation is notorious in its abrogation of the human rights of people who use drugs, including AIDS patients, and its banning of Opioid Substitution Treatment. We await with interest, therefore, the INCB’s report on the mission in the next Annual Report.

Thumbnail: Linda Rehlin