Anton Muhajir, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Fri, 08/14/2009 2:11 PM | The Archipelago
Drug users in Asia and Pacific regions face discrimination and limited access to proper medical treatment since many of these countries still regard human rights as minor problems, a forum was told Thursday.
“It requires comprehensive policy changes at the national, regional and international levels to enable these persons to receive needed medications and treatments,” said a speaker in a forum on Injecting Drug Users (IDU), with the theme Reform: Toward Human Rights Drug Policy, in Sanur, as part of the 9th International Congress on AIDS in the Asia-Pacific.
Dean Lewis, a member of the Asian Network for People who Use Drugs (ANPUD), told the forum that harm reduction was among the efforts to reduce negative impact among IDU persons.
“Such a policy is still unavailable in many Asian and Pacific countries.”
Annie Maiden from the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) shared Lewis’s opinion.
Even in Australia, she said, treatment for IDUs was still far from adequate and wanting in terms of human rights.
“IDUs have many problems getting Hepatitis C treatment.”
In Australia, she explained, there are around 250,000 people infected by Hepatitis C. Most were IDUs.
“Most IDUs are still scared about asking for medical help as they are worried about possible discrimination. Hepatitis C is a complex issue in Australia.”
Australia, she further said, has already applied anti-discriminative medical treatment against people of diverse races, religions and people with different sexual orientation.
“Yet, discriminative actions are still existing in many fields including in the medical world.”
Moreover, there is no anti-discriminative regulation that deals with IDUs.
Australia does not impose a death penalty against drug users as well as drug dealers/traffickers like Indonesia and other Asian countries.
“In fact, they will stay in prison for rest of their life at the maximum.”
IDUs in Australia have to pay around A$12 per day for medication, a relatively large amount for many Australians.
“Some of them resorted to crime to get the money,” she said.
“Australia have a very bad record on IDU-related human rights issues.”
According to Lewis, treatments for IDUs must be more accessible and humane.
“But, IDUs should be more active in promoting new regulation and build a wide networking with IDUs in other regions.
“We all speak different languages. How can we better understand each other?
“The program must be spread out and communicated among members. Funding is also important.
“If we don’t have sufficient resources, include funds, how can we disseminate our program?”
Some countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan and their neighboring countries have not yet been included in the regional networking for IDU.
Indonesian Drug User Solidarity Association (IDUSA) member Yvone Sibuea added IDU must be active at the legislative level to encourage politicians and lawmakers to produce legal bases for IDU medical treatments and their proper access to such facilities.
In Indonesia, IDUSA has been working closely with the legislators to view IDUs as human beings rather than criminal persons.
“We encourage lawmakers to provide shelter and rehabilitation facilities for drug users instead of prisons,” Yvone said.