Why Physicians for Human Rights Endorses the Vienna Declaration

The International AIDS Conference is taking place this week in Vienna, Austria. The theme of the Conference is “Rights Here, Right Now” and a major focus is on the exploding epidemic in nearby Eastern Europe fueled by injecting drug use.PHR joined with hundreds of other organizations in endorsing The Vienna Declaration—the official declaration of the Conference—which was released at the Conference launch.

The Vienna Declaration is a scientific statement seeking to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies.

PHR has been a leader in advocating for the United States Government’s adoption and implementation of health policies that are evidence-based, practical, rights-based and appropriate for injecting and other drug users. The Vienna Declaration is right in line with this focus. It outlines how drug policies based largely on law enforcement are harmful to public health while failing to control illicit drug use.The Declaration states that

The criminalization of illicit drug users is fueling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed.

PHR is pleased to see the increased awareness and support for evidence-based drug policies. We are hopeful that momentum from the Conference will result in meaningful policy change and progress toward the right to health.

Basing drug policies on scientific evidence will not eliminate drug use or the problems stemming from drug injecting. However, reorienting drug policies towards evidence-based approaches that respect, protect and fulfill human rights has the potential to reduce harms deriving from current policies and would allow for the redirection of the vast financial resources towards where they are needed most: implementing and evaluating evidence-based prevention, regulatory, treatment and harm reduction intervention.

PHR will continue to be a leader in advocating for these policies as well as monitoring their implementation and their impact on improving the health of injecting and other drug users.Endorsements are still being collected; visit the Vienna Declaration website to show your support.

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