Hello INPUD members and friends,
I wanted to write to you all to let you know what INPUD has been up to since I and then Hazel came into our positions as INPUD’s first full time staff members.
Much of November was spent as you will all know coordinating INPUD’s first global demonstration on World AIDS Day which this year was dedicated to exposing the brutality and medieval mature of Russia’s drug policy, which keeping OST illegal and refusing to implement NSP is driving a massive HIV pandemic amongst our community. Whilst the demos, held in 12 cities globally didn’t draw much press attention, they were a resounding success in showing INPUD at its activist best, out in the streets, loud and proud, protesting about the issues that matter to our community. Erin did a splendid job coordinating and Berne’s designs gave the protests a strong, coherent visual look. Too many others of you played invaluable roles to mention, I don’t want to leave anyone out but thank all of you.
From the street we moved to the ‘corridors of power’ in terms of participating as part of the NGO delegation in one of the major international institutions, the Programme Coordinating Board of UNAIDS in Geneva where INPUD also held its first side event at a High Level Meeting. This brought together activists from Russia, Afghanistan and Portugal to attest to the impact of different legal environments on levels of HIV amongst our community. Both the meeting and demonstrations showed INPUD’s ability to use social media to the greatest effect to spread and disseminate our messages. Also at the global level UNODC have established an expert group on Stimulants to write guidance on services for stimulant users. INPUD was approached at the start of the process and we now have a team of five peer stimulant experts from US, Indonesia, Thailand/Australia, Puerto Rico and Russia representing a wide range of stimulant types and routes of administration. This provides a focus for INPUD’s stimulant experts to gather together and this invitation marks positive forward progress with UNODC around the practical expression of meaningful participation. Further global advocacy initiatives have been the on-going Global Commission on HIV and the Law (GCHL) on which INPUD has powerful representation; finally, along with MSMGF and NSWP we contributed to a set of definitions and chosen language to be used by UNAIDS.
Less visibly INPUD has been gearing up to launch into its first major paid projects. The first to start is an ambitious 4.5-year project funded by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, called the Community Action for Harm Reduction (CAHR) project. The project has four pillars: increasing access, building capacity, promoting human rights and brokering knowledge. Underpinning our whole approach will be the involvement of target groups at all stages of the project: in shaping the programmes in country through participatory activities; in delivery by acting as peer educators; and as leaders by influencing national and international policy processes. This will see us providing capacity building events for people who use drugs in 5 countries – Kenya, China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. The lessons learnt in these countries will feed into a major international advocacy campaign that we will lead with the International Drug Policy Consortium and Harm Reduction International highlighting the legal barriers to access to HIV services, and the human rights abuses to which our people are subject. The project will start next month with a 5-day capacity building event amongst people who inject heroin in Nairobi. At the same time we will be training the relatively new local harm reduction services in the best techniques for ensuring that our people are meaningfully involved in the services directed at them. This is an important opportunity to ensuring that the roll out of harm reduction services in Kenya and the other countries have meaningful participation built in from the very beginning. One of our major aims in the project will be to support drug user participation in programming and decision-making, including by supporting the development of networks of people who use drugs.
The second project, funded by the Dutch AidsFonds is a 5 year project in which we are joined by international networks representing the other two populations disproportionately affected by HIV, namely men who have sex with men, and sex workers. This project will see us again working in Kenya, but also in Ukraine and several countries covered by ANPUD. This project has five major objectives:
• Improve the quality of and access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and other support services for people who use drugs
• Improve the human rights of PUDs
• Integrate specific services for PUDs within the general health system
• Strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations that work on HIV and PUDs.
Within this project we are also able to continue the work we have been doing to strengthen networking within the MENA, and Eastern European & Central Asian regions. Whilst the latter region is considerably further ahead in its journey of development, our Middle Eastern network MENANPUD is at a germinal stage and is showing enormous energy and potential. People who use drugs in both regions face considerable challenges and are as such crucial areas for INPUD to be working in.
Some other smaller, but no less important, projects that we have been involved with have been helping to organise a series of focus groups looking at Treatment for Prevention of HIV amongst PWIDs alongside ‘Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention’ and several other organisations. INPUD was a partner in the production of ‘What works?’ SRH and HIV linkages brief on people who use drugs in Indonesia; and at the moment one of our members is producing an HIV Prevention Report Card aimed at PWU heroin in Afghanistan. With GNP+ we contributed to a questionnaire looking at the human rights implications of ART for our community. INPUD was also approached to give some feedback into an early feasibility study of a new drug for treating Hep C – they were particularly keen to hear our views about side effects. We have also been consulted on the chosen location for the next HRI conference – I can’t reveal where it is going to be held yet, but can confirm that HRI are bending over backwards to ensuring that our needs are met, that our input is substantial and that the entire conference is a user friendly zone. No more pokey back rooms for us!
As well as getting this very ambitious paid work programme underway, we have been developing our approach to the International AIDS Conference, which is, again as most of you know, disastrously being held in the US and as such largely rules out the participation of not only us, but sex workers. Our substantial exclusion from the conference is something that we are working around and we are developing an approach that will combine an attempt to increase the participation of US based members of our community, and simultaneously to draw attention to, and protest, the highly exclusionary nature of the conference. The International AIDS Society seem to have recognised the magnitude of their mistake in holding the conference in a country that systematically denies entry to not just members of our own community but also to people who sell sex and as such is responding not only by trying to cover over the mistake that is represented by holding this conference in Washington, but also by seeking our involvement at a very early stage in the development of their next conference in 2014 in Australia. As some of my earlier emails have suggested, another area that we have been looking at is developing a response to the recent collapse of round 11 of the Global Fund; whilst our concerns are likely to be drowned out by the large AIDS service organisations, not to mention the TB and Malaria charities, NGOs and others, we still need to make very clear the cataclysmic impact that the cancellation of the fund will have for our people living in the many countries where all of the harm reduction services, NSPs and OST are provided by NGOs and programmes that are entirely provided for by the Global Fund.
With other funding streams that have become available to us we are working hard on stabilising our virtual environment. Building solid information technology systems that will both facilitate our work programme and improve our internal and external communications; the end product of this will see a sophisticated virtual environment with a strong redesigned website which can both showcase INPUD to partner organisations, multilateral bodies, donors and other interested parties, but also act as an attractive resource to you, our membership, in turn this will be a major tool in building INPUD’s membership, making us stronger, and extending our reach. To help us to do this, we will be continuing with the roll out of INPUD member lists in other languages including French, Spanish, and Portuguese. In addition, we are also using our FaceBook page, blogs and Twitter accounts extensively to ensure that we have a strong, vital presence in the virtual world. Most importantly perhaps, you will all, I am sure, be pleased to know, that rapid progress is now being made towards securing the legal and financial incorporation of the organisation as an independent entity.
Over the coming months, we will be carrying out a number of measures to strengthen INPUD’s internal democracy, vitality and culture. Most important of all will be the upcoming Board election, which, in the absence of an obvious global meeting at which to gather this year will be a virtual election carried out on one of the systems that we have developed. We hope to elect a strong, accountable Board to oversee the work of the staff team and that a strong regional, and gender range of candidates will come forward and that all members will cast their votes. Something else that is planned is a skills audit of the membership – we have an enormous range of skills, talents and knowledge amongst us and we want to be able to harness these abilities in the most effective way possible, carrying out an audit will, we hope be an efficient way of doing this. Increasingly from now on INPUD will be called upon to do work that our staff team either don’t have the time to do, or that we would want to offer to one of our members to do on a consultancy basis; in the future, calls like this will be advertised to membership so that people can tender to carry them out. Following on from this, we will be launching some new working groups to cover some of the thematic areas that impact most strongly on our lives, including HIV, OST, Hep-C, stigma and discrimination, Human Rights, Harm Reduction, prisons, drug law reform. The intention is that all of these groups will produce INPUD position papers reflecting the consensus positions held by the membership and organisation.
I am sure that I have missed a lot out, but I hope that this gives you some idea of the amount of work that INPUD is doing and the progress that we are making as we establish ourselves as the peak international network representing our community on the global stage, reaching from the streets to grab the throats and ears of diplomats and politicians to push our agendas in the global conversation.
Thank you to all of our members whose work has been referred to above – you all know who you are – I didn’t want to start naming individuals in case I left someone out, but needless to say you have all done, and are doing, fantastic work for our community. We can only grow stronger!
all the best
Acting Director and Programme Coordinator
International Network of People who Use Drugs
Terms: PUD (Person who/uses drugs) PWID (Person Who Injects Drugs) NGO (Non Govt Org) MENA (Middle east North Africa)