The Vienna Declaration is a statement seeking to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies. This is the official declaration of the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) to be held in Vienna, Austria from July 18th to 23rd. The declaration was drafted by a team of international experts and initiated by several of the world's leading HIV and drug policy scientific bodies: the International AIDS Society, the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.
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. These harmful effects include but are not limited to:
- HIV epidemics fueled by the criminalization of people who use illicit drugs and by prohibitions on the provision of sterile needles and opioid substitution treatment.
- HIV outbreaks among incarcerated and institutionalized drug users as a result of punitive laws and policies and a lack of HIV prevention services in these settings.
- The undermining of public health systems when law enforcement drives drug users away from prevention and care services and into environments where the risk of infectious disease transmission (e.g., HIV, hepatitis C & B, and tuberculosis) and other harms is increased.
- A crisis in criminal justice systems as a result of record incarceration rates in a number of nations. This has negatively affected the social functioning of entire communities. While racial disparities in incarceration rates for drug offenses are evident in countries all over the world, the impact has been particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement.
- Stigma towards people who use illicit drugs, which reinforces the political popularity of criminalising drug users and undermines HIV prevention and other health promotion efforts.
- Severe human rights violations, including torture, forced labour, inhuman and degrading treatment, and execution of drug offenders in a number of countries.
- A massive illicit market worth an estimated annual value of US $320 billion. These profits remain entirely outside the control of government. They fuel crime, violence and corruption in countless urban communities and have destabilised entire countries, such as Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan.
- Billions of tax dollars wasted on a “War on Drugs” approach to drug control that does not achieve its stated objectives and, instead, directly or indirectly contributes to the above harms.
It acknowledges and concludes that:
"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 interventions."
To read and sign the Vienna Declaration, please click here. By adding your name to the Vienna Declaration, you will be joining scientists, health practitioners, and other members of the public who all support the implementation of science-based policies to meaningfully improve community health and safety by reducing the toll of drugs globally.