1. Conectas Direitos Humanos (Conectas), the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), and Iniciativa Negra por uma Nova Política de Drogas (INNPD), welcome the opportunity to provide input to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, regarding the List of Issues of the forthcoming periodic review of Brazil by the Committee. In particular, this submission will focus on the serious violation of the rights to health of people who use drugs in Brazil.
2. The information on the number of people who use drugs in Brazil is limited, and incomplete. After years of investment, the government censored the publication of the official drug-use census, conducted by an internationally respected research center, as the new administration disagreed with the results, which disproved the so-called “drug epidemic” that fuels draconian drug laws and policies being adopted in the countryi. For 2017, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported a 1% prevalence of cocaine use, and a 0.1% prevalence of heroin use as of 2017.ii However, people who use drugs are disproportionately affected by health harms, such as blood-borne diseases and mental health conditions; for instance, HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs in Brazil is estimated at 9.9%,iii while in the general population that rate is 20 times lower, at 0.5%.iv The failure to produce and make available qualified data on drug use is part of the control process that gives substance to the war on drugs, compromises the elaboration of effective public policies, reinforces stigmas, and feeds on Brazilian structural racism.
3. In recent years, the Brazilian authorities have consistently reduced the public funding and support for evidence-based and rights compliant drug services, including harm reduction services. This submission will focus on three aspects in which this has impacted the right to health of people who use drugs in Brazil:
a. The lack of access to evidence-based harm reduction services, which has become more pressing due to the government’s rejection of harm reduction in its National Drug Policy, and due to the closure of several centres.
b. Increased public investment and support for abstinence-based drug ‘rehabilitation’ centres, which do not provide evidence-based drug treatment, and where shocking cases of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment have been reported.
c. The increasing criminalisation of drug use and of possession for personal use, which acts as a barrier to accessing health services, and has driven a major increase in the number of incarcerated people, particularly amongst those belonging to marginalised communities.