The Ignorance and the Damage Done 3/4/05
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/377 ... mage.shtml
David Borden, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two weeks ago, DRCNet reported on the "Souder Circus," an anti-harm reduction hearing -- with some esteemed harm reduction representation -- convened by the Drug Policy Subcommittee, of the US House of Representatives' Committee on Government Reform -- a grouping chaired by arch-drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). I attended that hearing, and it quickly became clear what Souder's agenda was. Souder was getting ready to go after harm reduction -- strategies like needle exchange to the reduce disease and death associated with drug use -- on an international scale. He imported several representatives of Asian anti-drug organizations to make the point -- but no Asian AIDS groups, and none at all from Europe where harm reduction is most advanced. The issue is now in full press, with US diplomats exerting growing pressure on agencies like the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Two months ago, an anonymous writer in Pittsburgh's Tribune Review paper borrowed the Neil Young song title, "The Needle and the Damage Done," for an editorial. Well, you never know if it was the author or staff at the paper who supply an editorial's title. But that's what the title was. Unfortunately, the piece was less a lament over addiction than a poorly conceived attack piece against harm reduction. The ignorance such screeds embody might be pardonable if they did not reflect great and willful prejudice. And the consequences of such ignorance are themselves wreaking much -- very much -- damage, around the world and within the US itself.
The AIDS epidemic is exploding in new populations around the world, particularly in developing nations whose resources for offering the expensive treatments common in more wealthy nations are much more scant. According to a statement this week by Human Rights Watch, drug injecting accounts for a majority of HIV cases in China, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, the Baltic states, and all of Central Asia, as well as much of Southeast Asia and South America. Russia, HRW points out, has more HIV cases now than all of North American, and drug injection is responsible for as many as 80% of them.
That is why pressure is growing on our side of the issue, too. The HRW statement was issued on the occasion of the release of an open letter on the topic signed by numerous organizations from 56 nations around the world, including the very nations represented by anti-drug groups at Mark Souder's hearings two weeks before. Editorials in both the New York Times and the Washington Post were right on time, criticizing the Bush administration's stance on the issue last weekend.
To be blunt, if the Souders of the world have their way with the UN, untold millions will die, unnecessarily. In the face of such a catastrophe, a catastrophe already in progress, "the needle and the damage done" hardly speaks to anything useful. A better refrain for our time might be "the ignorance and the damage done." Ignorance which greatly increases the harm of the needle.
-- END --