Highlighting the link between intravenous drug use and transmittal of the AIDS virus, United Nations officials today called for global efforts to establish policies, including public awareness campaigns, to address the spread of the deadly disease through these risky practices.
Marking the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which is observed on 26 June, Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted in a message that in many Asian, Latin American and Eastern European countries, intravenous drug use was the main mode of transmitting AIDS.
An estimated 5 to 10 per cent of global HIV infections result from such practices, Mr. Annan added, calling it "an exceptionally potent way of spreading the virus since injecting drug users are often linked in tight networks and commonly share injecting equipment."
The Secretary-General said that prevention required political leadership, information and public awareness campaigns in schools and in the workplace, and the mobilization and involvement of all sectors of society, including religious and community leaders. He also called for urgent action to alleviate poverty, reduce stigma and ensure access to essential social services.
"Preventing HIV/AIDS and stopping drug abuse and trafficking are more than public health concerns," Mr. Annan said. "HIV/AIDS touches every part of society. Above all, it affects the young disproportionately, decimating the ranks of the skilled and educated during their prime years, with tragic implications for every affected country and region."
The Secretary-General noted that four years ago countries meeting at a special session of the UN General Assembly committed themselves to a vigorous plan of action to combat drug abuse and trafficking, while last year, at a special session on HIV/AIDS, they pledged to establish policies and programmes to address injecting drug use as a factor making individuals especially vulnerable to HIV infection.
For his part, the President of the General Assembly, Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea, said that illicit drug trafficking was a global phenomenon and one of the main issues that the UN and the world community should address collectively.
In also recalling the Assembly's two special sessions on illegal drugs and HIV/AIDS, Mr. Han urged all UN Member States and the international community to reaffirm their commitment to implement the action programmes and measures contained in the decision of those meetings "in order to achieve a world in which illicit drug use and HIV/AIDS have ceased to exist."