1 November, 2021


The International Drug Users Day, where the global community of people who use drugs comes together to celebrate their history and affirm their rights. This year's theme has been #PowerOfPeers, in recognition that in times of crisis it is always peers who step up for our communities in spite of the significant barriers we face everyday.

This year's statement below was written by Aditia Taslim, INPUD's Advocacy Officer.

For years we have heard lip service from governments and policymakers about how community is a critical actor in the global health space. Yet while verbal commitments continue to be recycled, people who use drugs at the community level continue to experience criminalisation, exclusion and injustice. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided us with more proof that in times of crisis, it is the community who responds first by extending solidarity and supporting each other through challenging times

The world has learned harm reduction saves lives, but saving lives has become more political than ever. Funding for harm reduction services remains extremely low and very little of this funding goes to people who use drugs and their organisations. Around the world, drug policies are still very much driven by criminalisation and punitive laws and practices. Almost all countries have laws that criminalise people who use drugs.

The War on Drugs has been one of the greatest policy failures of our time, with countless lives lost to incarceration, preventable deaths and disease and pushed to the very margins of society. And yet thanks to peer-led advocacy, we are not without hope. For the first time in history the Global AIDS Strategy includes social enabler targets. These ’10-10-10’ targets on gender-based inequalities and violence, restrictive legal and policy environment and stigma and discrimination have been signed off by Member States. They include a historic target on decriminalisation of drug use and possession that has further been adopted within the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.


Source of the graph: UNAIDS[1]

The world will not achieve these global targets without people who use drugs at the center, because it is the lived experiences of activists fighting for the rights of people who use drugs that have brought us here. Despite continuous tensions, frustrations and pessimism, our community has grown with collective pride, hope and resilience. We remain united and will continue rallying around a common goal of ending the War on Drugs with full decriminalisation with no sanctions.

Today, on International Drug Users Day, we celebrate our history and affirm our rights. We demand that the community of people who use drugs are fully resourced and funded and provided with the space to participate in decision-making process and that War on Drugs must be ended with full decriminalisation of drugs with no sanctions.

Source: https://www.inpud.net/en/international-drug-users-day-2021-powerofpeers

In 2020, key populations (sex workers and their clients, gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, transgender people) and their sexual partners accounted for 65% of HIV infections globally:

93% of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

39% of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

The risk of acquiring HIV is:

35 times higher among people who inject drugs.

34 times higher for transgender women.

26 times higher for sex workers.

25 times higher among gay men and other men who have sex with men.

Source: https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/2021_WAD_report_en.pdf


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.