Sitting here in the Stockholm Drug Users Union offices, surrounded by these terrific drug users who are fighting for the futures of Swedish users, I am left feeling really angry and upset. Inspired by the users fight, no question -but so distressed at what they are facing. When I went to one of the methadone clinics the other day, I felt so angry seeing people lining up for their methadone, waiting to piss in a urine specimen bottle while they are watched through a glass screen…There is a clinic up in the North of Sweden where people have to wear shorts, skirts and short sleeves to avoid being pulled aside for a body search which the staff conduct so they can make sure the users are not ‘hiding anything’.
I see people who’s very spirit is being crushed by the very people that are supposed to help them. Here is just a list of some of the things Swedish users have to face here in Sweden.
- Needle exchange in only 2 places in the entire country.
- Pharmacies that are forbidden to sell sterile syringes by law.
- Clinics that punish you for having a ‘dirty urine’ by making you lose your take home doses – thereby making you come into the clinic EVERY day, which then exposes you to dealers who hang around the clinic. This punishment is called support.
- For people addicted to blackmarket buprenorphine, if they come to the clinic for help, they are not allowed to have a buprenorphine ‘script. Only those who are on heroin can get one so users have to go out, buy street smack, THEN go back to the clinic, get tested, and then they can get a bupe script!
- If you don’t/can’t ‘conform’ to the clinic rules and get thrown off the programme, you are not allowed to get back on a programme for 6 months. (It was 2years until the Union got involved in the issue). Only then can you go back on the WAITING LIST for a place on a programme.
- People under 20 years are not permitted in a needle exchange or methadone programme.
- People on methadone are not permitted in the needle exchange.
- Users are forced to pay for a used syringe on the blackmarket (This has changed in Stockholm now because the Union gives them out).
- There are even less sterile syringes on the blackmarket now since the diabetics were given pens instead of insulin syringes to stop the sale of syringes. This means even more users have to buy used ones.
- You are not allowed housing if you use illcit drugs. If you get on a programme, you are urine tested and after 3 years of clean urines you can be given housing. However continued urine tests at the methadone clinic mean if you give ‘dirty urines’ you can lose your housing.
- You are urine tested even in hostels for the homeless and thrown out if they are ‘dirty’.
- Heroin prescribing is a far off dream for Swedish users but the Union will not give up. But their first battle is for more needle exchanges and sterile works to be available at chemists.
- You can lose some of your social security benefits if using illicit drugs, leaving you only 170 euros every month (a food allowance).
So much for the Swedish dream of human rights for all…
Thats all from me here in Stockholm so far at least, Ill be reprting from the UNAIDS PCB meeting in Geneva next week – NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US!