Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Experts stress need to review drug laws

Kathmandu, December 13-To safeguard the human rights of the people living with HIV/AIDS and the Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) and for the successful implementation of Harm Reduction Programme, the existing drug laws need to be reviewed, legal experts said here tuesday Himalay times Reports. “We need to review the existing drug laws and policies, and introduce the harm reduction programme in the existing laws,” Megh Raj Pokhrel, advocate at Nepal Environmental Lawyer Association, said. He was addressing an interaction on “Advocacy for HIV/AIDS Harm Reduction and Human Rights” jointly organised by National Human Rights Commission, Youth Power Nepal and UNDP. He said that the existing drug laws oppose the harm reduction programme Drug and Psychotropic substance Act 2033, Drug Act 2035 and Human Rights Commission Act, 2053 are contradictory to each other, Pokharel said.

“The home ministry has no plans to amend the laws and holds reservations as regards to the needle exchange programme. But at the same time, the health ministry supports the harm reduction programme. There is no co-ordination between the two ministries,” said Pokhrel.

Ujjwal Baral, National coordinator of the National Network Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAP+N), said a multisectoral approach was the need of the hour. People living with HIV/AIDS and IDUs had already done enough from their sides, he said. Baral said that he an MBBS student at Nepalgunj Medical College — was denied his right to internship when it became known that he was HIV positive. He was infected with the disease as he used to inject drugs, Baral said.

“Had I exchanged syringes under the harm reduction programme, I would not have been infected in the first place,” Baral said. It is estimated that there are 50,000 IDUs in Nepal.

He pointed out that not every drug user or HIV patient is lucky to get the support of his friends and family, and hence not eveyone cannot afford treatment. “People should understand that treatment is our right,” Baral said. Sara Nyati, International Programme Manager of Global Fund HIV/AIDS, UNDP, said that the human rights of all HIV victims and IUDs could be ensured by increasing accountability of the duty bearers at all levels. “Access to information, stopping stereotyping, equal access to treatment, care and support, mitigation against workshop discrimination, etc, will help ensure human rights of HIV infected people,” said Niyati. Dr Shyam Sunder Mishra, acting director at National Center for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC), said that the harm reduction programme was not able to yield better results as it had been launched without adequate homework. “There is a lack of co-ordination between various government bodies,” Dr Mishra said. Gokul Pokhrel, NHRC member, said that the commission was accessible to all and would continue to advocate for the rights of HIV positives and IDUs.

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