Press Releases

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13 July 2010


A Humane and Effective Approach to Drug Dependence:
UNODC to Launch Discussion Paper "From Coercion to Cohesion - Treating Drug Dependence Through Health Care, Not Punishment"
at 2010 International AIDS Conference

VIENNA, 13 July (UN Information Service) - At the 2010 International AIDS Conference, UNODC will launch the discussion paper "From coercion to cohesion: Treating drug dependence through health care, not punishment". The paper will be released in conjunction with the re-launch of the Open Society Institute's (OSI) 2010 report, "Detention as Treatment: Detention of methamphetamine users in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand," and is aimed at highlighting the issues surrounding detention centres and compulsory treatment for drug users. The session will be moderated by Christian Kroll, Global Coordinator for HIV and AIDS at UNODC, and will include speakers from the UN, Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Institute (OSI): Gilberto Gerra, Chief of the Drug Prevention and Health Branch at UNODC, Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, Rebecca Schleiffer, Advocacy Director, Health and Human Rights Division at Human Rights Watch and Daniel Wolfe, Director, International Harm Reduction Development at OSI.

Detention of drug users is not treatment! Drug dependence is a health disorder and punishment is not the appropriate response. However, detention in prisons or in compulsory drug treatment centres is an increasing phenomenon. Science-based treatment of drug dependence in detention centres is often not provided. Interventions in detention centres include often violence, forced labour and harsh military drills. Such practices do not comply with internationally recommended approaches for drug dependence treatment and represent violations of human rights.

HIV prevalence in detention centres is always higher than in the community. The profile of the people entering the detention centres, and the absence of prevention programmes contribute to the situation. Health services are substandard or nonexistent and often, people living with HIV are denied access to antiretroviral treatment.

That situation has led the international community to call for a way out of detention centres for drug users and for a restructuring of how the public security and public health systems implement drug treatment. UNODC has stated earlier in its 2010 report that drug dependence treatment should be evidence-based, promote prevention of HIV and other communicable disease transmission, and should not violate the human rights of detainees. Voluntary community based treatment services, tailored to the needs of the drug dependent patient, are more effective in attracting drug users in treatment and are more cost-effective.

Date: 21 July 2010
Time: 16:00 - 17:00
Venue: AIDS 2010 Media Centre, Hall A, Press Conference Room 1

Please note: Participants have to be registered for the conference in advance!


UNODC is the lead agency within UNAIDS for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for injecting drug users and in prison settings. For more information, visit

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For information contact:

Fabienne Hariga
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-4292