Published June, 2012

The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic, Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (June 2012)

This report asserts that drug law enforcement practices prevent drug users from taking advantage of public health services and effectively increase their vulnerability to HIV risk. These law enforcement practices include creating fear of arrest, restricting needle exchange programs, restricting opioid substitution therapy, mass incarceration, and disruption of HIV antiretroviral therapy. The report finds that in the past decades the volume of illegal drugs and their potencies have dramatically increased, but during that same period their prices have significantly decreased. This suggests that these drug law enforcement tactics have not been successful.

The report points out that outside of sub-Saharan Africa, injection drug use accounts for approximately one-third of all new HIV cases and an even greater proportion in prison settings. It also concludes that evidence-based addiction treatment and public health measures can be very effective in reducing HIV rates among drug users, but most nations do not implement such measures. Funds that could have been used on such successful programs have, instead, gone towards the unsuccessful worldwide war on drugs.

After offering support for the Vienna Declaration adopted by the 2010 International AIDS Conference, the report offers ten recommendations for actions that national and international leaders should take in response to their findings. Recommendations include: acknowledge the link between the war on drugs and the spread of HIV, scale up evidence-based strategies to reduce HIV, invest in HIV treatment, recognize the failure of the war on drugs, and act urgently.