ANPUD Board advocates for universal access to harm reduction approaches
The Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD) is the first registered regional network of people who use drugs, and was established by people who use drugs to unify the voices of their communities to advocate for changes in drug laws and policies that negatively affect their lives and for better access to prevention, treatment and care services across Asia. ANPUD currently has over 190 members throughout the Asian region. ANPUD's first meeting of the Executive Board was held in Bangkok on 25th-27th August 2010.
The ANPUD Executive Board consists of seven members from South and South East Asia. During the meeting, the Executive Board members elected Jimmy Dorabjee as the Chairperson and Bijay Pandey the Vice-Chair. Anand Chabungbam was elected as the General Secretary and Mohamad Firdaus Bin Zakaria as the Treasurer. The other board members are Rajesh Khongbantabam, Yvonne Sibuea and Paisan Suwannawong.
The Board agreed upon the following objectives for ANPUD over next two years:
1. Establish or strengthen National Networks of people who use drugs in five Asian countries and support in-country peer networks in their advocacy efforts
2. Promote a platform and common voice for people who use drugs in Asia to advocate for the harmonisation of policies, decriminalisation and reducing stigma and discrimination at forums where people who use drugs should be represented.
3. Advocate for universal access to a range of diverse, evidence based, locally driven harm reduction approaches in conformity with the "World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Technical Guide for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care" for people who use drugs in the Asian region with a special focus on access to Hepatitis C (Hep C) diagnosis and treatment.
On the last day of the meeting, a group of regional stakeholders based in Bangkok were invited to meet and dialogue with the board. Representatives from UNODC, UNAIDS, the UN Regional Task Force on Injecting Drug Use and HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, AusAID Bangkok, The HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Program and Burnet Institute Regional Office were among those who attended.
ANPUD Chairperson Jimmy Dorabjee said that "people who use drugs are key stakeholders who should be respected as a group who have the knowledge, understanding, skills and expertise on issues around drug use and HIV prevention. We should be consulted and involved as an equal partner with stakeholders in policy dialogue and planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs for our communities in conformity with the founding principle of ANPUD which is the meaningful involvement of people who use drugs (MIPUD)." (CNS)
(The author is a CNS Policy Adviser and received the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General's WNTD Award 2008. He writes extensively on health and development for Citizen News Service (CNS). Email: [email protected], website: www.citizen-news.org)
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