11 December 2006

UN Drugs Chief Expresses Condolences over Deaths in Moscow Drug Clinic Fire

VIENNA, 11 December 2006 (UN Information Service) -- The Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, expressed his condolences today to the Russian people over the deaths of 45 persons in a fire that swept through a drug treatment clinic in Moscow on 9 December.

The victims, mostly young women who were patients and staff at the clinic, were in a section of the hospital that treated women for drug dependency. They included people living with HIV.

"The death of these women is a real tragedy," said Mr. Costa, who is attending a conference in Jordan. "They had the courage to try to escape the hell of drug abuse but were unable to escape this inferno." Mr. Costa called for a full investigation into the cause of the blaze.

Women in drug treatment are often marginalized by society. Their stigmatization is even greater if they have contracted HIV through drug use. Mr. Costa reiterated the importance of states ensuring that the human rights of drug users are respected and urged all societies to ensure non-discriminatory drug prevention and treatment facilities so all vulnerable people get the care they deserve.

He urged the Russian authorities to improve drug prevention and treatment in order to cope with an epidemic of drug abuse and the spread of HIV/AIDS through drug injection, due in large part to a boom in opium production in Afghanistan.  

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is the lead agency within the UNAIDS system supporting comprehensive approaches to HIV prevention and care among injecting drug users.

In prison settings, UNODC assists in implementing international instruments, norms and standards, which ensure that all inmates receive health care, including for HIV and AIDS. UNODC also helps governments to combat human trafficking and provides guidance to reduce the vulnerability of victims to HIV and AIDS.  

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For information, please contact:
Richard Murphy
Spokesman, UNODC
Telephone: +43 1 260 60 5761
E-mail: richard.murphy@unodc.org