Drug War Leads to More HIV?

Updated at the bottom with some of the report's findings. First posted on June 21.

In L.A. your favorite outlaw drug, marijuana, is pretty much legit and widely available (for now). But what if it wasn't?

What if you had to scrounge around dirty, dark alleys, buy your fix from shady drug dealers, and do your drug in filthy crash pads?

A forthcoming report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which has a membership that includes Richard Branson, former U.S. Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, says the war on drugs contributes to HIV infection. A summary teases:

The report describes how the global war on drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners. It condemns the drug war as a failure and recommends immediate, major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime to halt the spread of HIV infection and other drug war harms.

We reached out to reps of the commission for more information, but we were told that the report is on lockdown until its release on June 26, when Branson and others will take part in a press conference to tout its reveal.

We're going to take a wild guess and presume that one issue is that heroin users go underground for the drugs and end up sharing dirty needles, leading to the transmission of HIV.

The teaser statement from the commission calls out drug policy in the United States, Russia, Thailand and China, specifically, for allegedly boosting the HIV epidemic.

The statement says the commission ...

... calls for drug decriminalization and expansion of proven, cost-effective solutions to reduce calls for drug decriminalization and expansion of proven, cost-effective solutions to reduce HIV/AIDS -- including sterile syringe access, safer injection facilities, and prescription heroin programs.

Sounds ideal. But it ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

[Update at 4:12 p.m., June 26]: The report (PDF) has been released.

It says that while the global price of heroin has gone down and its availability has gone up since the year 2000 ...

... HIV incidence increased by more than 25 percent in seven countries over this time span, largely as a result of HIV transmission related to intravenous drug use. Five of these countries are in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where the war on drugs is being aggressively fought and, as a result, the number of people living with HIV in this part of the world has almost tripled since 2000.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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