The Drug War Must End: More Evidence from Thailand

Kathleen Kingsbury
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Only weeks after the Global Commission on Drug Policy called for the end of the drug war, new video testimony from Thailand reinforces why this is a necessary step to ensuring public health.

Thailand over the past two decades has often been hailed as a leader in HIV prevention and treatment. The country’s health officials, however, have consistently failed to address how to stop the spread of HIV among injection drug users. According to UNAIDS, nearly 40 percent of injection drug users in Thailand are living with HIV, leaving little doubt this lapse in prevention has needlessly cost lives.

In the video above, Open Society Foundations grantees and partners from Thailand describe how the country’s war on drugs has put drug users at risk of HIV by preventing access to harm reduction services, including adequate legal counsel, needle exchange, and drug treatment. Instead, as a June 17 news report by Al Jazeera depicted, drug users in Southeast Asia are more often forced into ineffective, military-run “rehabilitation” based on wholesale drug testing and detention.

These accounts only further bolster the Commission’s June 2 call for an end to the global drug war. In its findings, the Commission found that many of the countries, including Thailand, which have spurned harm reduction policies for repression and deterrence “are experiencing the highest rates of HIV among drug-using populations.”

This video from Thailand was produced by the Key Correspondent Team (KC), a vibrant network of more than 250 community-based writers from more than 50 countries, hosted by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. KCs come from a variety of backgrounds related to HIV, health, and development, uniting to "speak their world" and give a voice to the voiceless.

Kathleen Kingsbury is Program Officer - International Harm Reduction Development, Open Society Public Health Program.