By Stephen Leahy
BERLIN, Jul 14, 2010 (IPS)
The failed “war on drugs” has not only badly damaged countries where it is waged, it is responsible for driving up HIV infection rates in some countries, says an official declaration endorsed Wednesday by three former Latin American presidents in advance of the XVIII International AIDS Conference that begins Jul. 18 in Vienna.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, injecting drug use is the primary cause of new HIV infections. Outside of sub- Saharan Africa, injecting drug use accounts for approximately one in three new cases of HIV, experts will report at the week-long meeting.
“The war on drugs has failed…Instead of sticking to failed policies with disastrous consequences, we must direct our efforts to the reduction of consumption and the reduction of the harm caused by drugs to people and society,” said former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
“Repressive policies are firmly rooted in prejudices, fears and ideological visions. The way forward to safeguard human rights, security and health is a strategy of peace not war,” said Cardoso.
Cardoso, along with former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of México and César Gaviria of Colombia, have endorsed the Vienna Declaration that lists a range of harms stemming from the war on drugs, and notes that the criminalisation of people who use drugs has resulted in record high incarceration rates, placing a massive burden on taxpayers.