The War on Drugs is a failure and is undermining the fight against HIV-Aids. On World Aids Day 2010, the International Aids Society is asking its 19,000-plus membership of HIV professionals around the globe to sign up to the Vienna Declaration – drug policy should be based on science, not ideology – and speak with one clear and credible voice to call for a new, evidence-based approach to dealing with illicit drugs.

The evidence has long been in for IAS – more than a third of the organisation’s members work as healthcare and social services providers on the front lines of the HIV epidemic. They know that the criminalisation of drug users undermines public health efforts by driving them underground and away from prevention and care services.

They know that the War on Drugs places individuals already vulnerable to HIV infection in even higher risk settings; incarcerating them in overcrowded prisons where a high prevalence of HIV, a risk of violence, the use of non-sterile drug injection equipment, sexual contacts, tattooing and sharing of razors create an ideal breeding ground for the disease.

Our members also know that in a number of countries, record drug-related incarceration rates have negatively affected the social functioning of entire communities.

Racial disparities in drug incarceration rates are also evident worldwide, and are particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement.

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