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63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Photo: UNIS Vienna/Nikoleta Haffar

Reducing harms associated with drug use

14 March 2024 (Vienna, Austria) – Despite fewer new HIV acquisitions globally, people who use drugs are still heavily impacted by HIV, viral hepatitis C and other health harms associated with unsafe drug use, IAS President Sharon Lewin reported at the start of the 67th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna today.

Yet there is a way forward: heeding evidence that firmly supports harm reduction, putting people first and keeping human rights at the centre of our actions. 

Lewin’s statement, read at the CND by Nora Volkow, the Director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, drew on the findings of a consultation among scientists and community leaders that reviewed evidence on how the situation could be changed.

The consultation showed that HIV and hepatitis C transmission among people who inject drugs is significantly reduced in countries that implement harm reduction services at scale, fully decriminalize drug use and respect human rights.

“Our consultation confirmed that harm reduction – needle and syringe programmes, opioid agonist therapy, and making naloxone available to prevent opioid overdose – is an essential part of an integrated, person-centred, evidence-based and effective HIV and hepatitis response,” Lewin said.

The results from the consultation are clear: we must put people first as we strive for a world in which HIV no longer presents a threat to public health and individual well-being.

View the full statement by Sharon Lewin:

Read the transcript of the statement here.

Find out more about harm reduction and HIV.

This statement is the result of the 4th pre-CND multi-stakeholder consultation held on 11-12 March and organized by UNODC HIV Section in close collaboration with IAS – the International AIDS Society – the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD).

The IAS promotes the use of non-stigmatizing, people-first language. The translations are all automated in the interest of making our content as widely accessible as possible. Regretfully, they may not always adhere to the people-first language of the original version.