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Apr 23, 2008

UNGASS: Universal Access "Fair Play" (The Network of Drug users in Nepal)

Written by Prem K Limbu

UNGASS: Universal Access "Fair Play"

It's amazing to see that IDU's are enjoying universal access to harm reduction services or at least nearly to it (reaching 76% at present, with UNGASS target being 80%) in Nepal. Technically right, according to the Methodologies that has been developed by UNGASS which considers various program indicators and this has resulted in showing 78% coverage (first website publication) and changed to 76% (in the dissemination day) in the IDU's component.

"This situation is a situation that we all should have been proud of, only if it was true" said Mr. Anan Pun a Chairman of International Network of People Using Drugs and also an Executive Director Recovering Nepal "a Network of Organizations Led by Drug users in Nepal" during the UNGASS report dissemination which was held in 18th April 2008. "Instead in reality, only about 2500- 3000 drug users are receiving Harm Reduction Services that are effective and really matters to them i.e Methadone, Buprenorphine, needle syringe exchange and rehabilitation treatment. It is reported that more than 46000 drug users are estimated to be living in Nepal, out of them, it is stated that more than 20000 are injecting. Service coverage is at its minimum in Nepal. These inflated figures in UNGASS report will not be helpful in addressing the issues that drug users are facing at present. Therefore on the grounds of absurdity, we cannot accept this outcome." said Anan.

It was also emphasized by other civil society members, who were present in the UNGASS report dissemination event that these reports, which have already been submitted to the UNGASS, does not at the least, reflect the current situation facing drug users in the country. Some members working directly with drug users even added that the statistics will be held against the IDU's in future, in times when the country is preparing Global Fund Proposal or making National Action Plans.

It's a well known fact that without preventing HIV among the drug users it is not possible to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic. Reports like these will merely ignore the existence of the problem and will become a mean of satisfaction to the donors and the top UN officials which might make them feel that they have fulfilled their UNGASS commitments when the truth is entirely different. As Anan later on put it "These are Technical illusion that is we all should be aware of, if our intentions clearly are to halt and reverse HIV in the world".

Picture, a drug user "who is in need of Methadone program" but can't get in one, since the methadone program is running a full house beyond its capacity, but he instead is provided a condom by an outreach worker. As per the UNGASS report, he is marked as "IDU reached with services", job well done. How is it that indicator such as, "How many drug users are enrolled in Methadone program?" is not used for coming out with the service coverage? Or for that matter "Drug user's in Buprenorphine program?" or "Drugs treatment or Detox?" These services are completely ignored in fears of high service gaps that can be reflected in the UNGASS report, which may not look good for many.

During the event, it was explained by the representatives of National Center for AIDS and STI Control (NCASC) and USAID that the country has just been following the guidelines provided by the UNGASS, to accumulate the data's to be considered in the report. If these methodologies and guidelines are designed to virtually inflate the existing service coverage, how effective can this be in reality to efficiently address the threat of HIV in the society?

As we all are aware that the drug users are a hidden population and usually the best estimates provided by the Government statistics are only tip of the iceberg. Drug users are a marginalized population. If we are to attract these hidden populations towards the mainstream services, we need a service package that are worth going through the trouble of exposing themselves in the service centers, attractive enough to get them out of their room. Considering these services are the best tools in reducing HIV among the drug users, these services should be major indicators for drug users component in UNGASS, if the commitments are truly intended to be fulfilled, keeping the promise with Fair Play in mind.


Prem k Limbu

Prem K Limbu
Advocacy Officer
Recovering Nepal
The Network of Drug users in Nepal
Ph (Mob):+977-98510-10158
(Off): +9771-2111107


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