An estimated 3.7 million people inject drugs in Eurasia, representing the second highest prevalence of injecting drug use worldwide. Around one in four people who inject drugs in the region are living with HIV. From 2000 to 2010, the number of people living with HIV has increased by 250% in Eurasia, and the spread of HIV remains concentrated among people who inject drugs and their sexual partners. Drug injection is also one of the main drivers of hepatitis C in the region, with the prevalence among people who inject drugs ranging from 30% in Azerbaijan to 95% in Lithuania.

These trends clearly show the need for governments to prioritise the delivery of comprehensive HIV prevention services targeting people who inject drugs, including needle and syringe programmes (NSPs) and opiate substitution therapy (OST) in the region. However, since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the mid-1990s, governments have given little or no political support to harm September 2012 reduction. As a result, these services often rely on limited financial support and operate under hostile political environments, while the overall regional approach to drug control has been focused on severe drug laws and their enforcement towards people who use drugs. This focus on repression has led to numerous examples of police practice undermining the health and social programmes that are designed to reduce drug problems in the region.

The purpose of this briefing paper, written by IDPC in collaboration with the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network, is to review up-to-date evidence on the institutionalisation of police violence toward people who use drugs across the region and the implications of these practices for public health and society. The review relies on data collected from several Eurasian countries and depicts instances of police abuse against people who use drugs as systematic practices widespread across the region. The paper concludes that the quantity and quality of interactions with the police profoundly shape the behaviour of people who use drugs and result in poor public health outcomes. 

The report is available below in English and Russian.

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