The creation of ANPUD will benefit the Asian harm reduction community

The 16th and 17th of October may of marked a turning point in the harm reduction effort in Asia. A group 25 drug users from nine different countries met in Bangkok to consolidate the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD) constitution and elect a steering committee.

The harm reduction community has made progresses in Asian Countries but there is still much to be done. Countries such as Thailand, Laos and Cambodia have been performing well in terms of providing antiretroviral treatment, with 80 percent of people with HIV/Aids receiving it. However statistics show an increase in infections among injecting drug users (IDU’s). The formation of ANPUD is a positive step in improving networking in the region and creates effective responses at a grassroots level.

Recently activists protested at the 9th International Congress in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) about the high prices of treatment for Hepatitis C (HCV). It is estimated that one third of people with HIV are also coinfected with HCV however treatment can cost up to 1500 USD a month which puts it out of reach of many people who need it.

The HIV treatment activist movement played a huge role in lowering the price of antiretroviral drugs by putting pressure on governments, bi-laterals and pharmaceutical giants. These efforts resulted in a dramatic fall in the cost of antiretroviral treatment to only a dollar a day. The formation of ANPUD could help reinforce networks and possibly achieve similar goals such as reducing the price of HCV treatment.

The steering committee has representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal and Cambodia and overseers said that they have set ambitious goals and achieved a lot at the two day meeting. Marginalised groups such as IDU’s have previously not been the focus of HIV prevention programs in the region. However a Network set up by drug users for drug users will surely bring IDU’s into the HIV prevention spectrum. Jimmy Dorabjee, a fundamental figure in the development of ANPUD’s, explained why this organisation is so important: "People who use drugs are stigmatized, criminalized and abused in every country in Asia. Our human rights are violated and we have little in the way of health services to stay alive. If governments do not see people who use drugs, hear us and talk to us, they will continue to ignore us."