The report highlights blatant disregard by the Government of Russia for health, human rights and scientific evidence related to the use of harm reduction measures for those who use illicit drugs. This is particularly troubling given the well-documented and concentrated HIV epidemic among people who use drugs in Russia.
The report was penned by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network together with the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and Andrey Rylkov Foundation on behalf of the Public Mechanism for Monitoring Drug Policy Reform in the Russian Federation. Entitled “Report on the course of implementation by the Russian Federation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem”, it is a scathing indictment of the two political documents that outline the Russian Government’s “State Anti-Drug Policy Strategy” and plan for its implementation.
Despite ample evidence and international recommendations, the Russian Government continues to tout its hardline position of “zero tolerance” for drug use without recourse; to human rights and public health-oriented programs have been overlooked.
The report provides six key recommendations for action for the Government of Russia to be in compliance with its own Constitution. Chief among these are the need for widespread provision of opioid substitution therapy, harm reduction programs, and anti-stigma and discrimination training for medical and social workers, law enforcement officers and judges. The clearly disproportionate response to those who use illicit drugs without intent to sell — often via harsh criminal prosecution and punishment, including lengthy imprisonment — is another key issue that must be swiftly addressed. Finally, ensuring that people who use drugs have a voice in the planning and implementation of drug demand reduction programs is critical to successfully combating this important public health issue.