27 June 2024

HRI statement to the 54th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board

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During the 54th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board thematic segment on “Sustaining the gains of the global HIV response to 2030 and beyond”, HRI shared new research on the harm reduction funding crisis and called for governments and donors to divest from punitive drug responses and invest in community, health and justice.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. My organisation Harm Reduction International has been monitoring the funding landscape for harm reduction since 2007. We just launched our latest report and it will come as no surprise that the findings were grim.

While harm reduction is emphasised more than ever before in international commitments and in national policies around the world, harm reduction funding is in crisis, with a 94% funding gap.

The Global AIDS Strategy calls for an intensified harm reduction response and yet harm reduction funding was just 0.7% of all HIV funding in 2022.

Donors provide two thirds of harm reduction funding. But donor funding has halved in real value over the past 15 years and harm reduction is more reliant on the Global Fund than ever before.

Funding for advocacy, legal and policy reform, human rights and community strengthening has reduced at a time when its needed most.


Photo credit: UNAIDS

While the importance of community-led responses is recognised, donors do not monitor their investments and without this, there is no accountability to the 30:80:60 targets.

Harm reduction represented just 0.4% of all domestic funding for HIV in 2022.

Given this picture, sustainability is a distant dream for harm reduction.

At the same time, governments and donors spend vast amounts on criminalising drug use, impeding the HIV response and violating human rights in the name of drug control. As Edwin Bernard and Ganna Dovbakh put so well, we need decriminalisation. This week we have heard high-level calls for the decriminalisation of drug use from UNAIDS Executive Director and from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health down the road at the Human Rights Council.

We would like to see decision points emphasising the need for governments and donors to divest from punitive drug responses and invest in community, health and justice. Ending the war on drugs is essential to sustainable harm reduction and to sustaining the gains of the HIV response beyond 2030.

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