The United Nations’ leading health agency, the World Health Organization, has called on countries around the world to end the criminalisation of people who use drugs. The call was made in a report published this month that looked at policy responses for dealing with HIV among key populations – men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and other closed settings, sex workers and transgender people. The WHO’s unambiguous recommendation is clearly grounded in concerns for public health and human rights. Whilst the call is made in the context of the policy response to HIV specifically, it clearly has broader ramifications, specifically including drug use other than injecting.
In the report, the WHO says:
- “Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.
- Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs[needle and syringe programs]) and that legalize OST [opiate substitution treatment] for people who are opioid-dependent.
- Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs ”
The report also highlights Portugal’s success in decriminalising personal drug possession and treating drug use as a health, rather than a criminal justice, issue.