EHRA announces a Drug policy regional consultation

Dear colleagues, dear EHRA members!

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is launching a regional online consultation to define its priorities in the area of drug policy and human rights of people who use drugs in CEECA that would guide our future activities in 2018 – 2020. The strategic framework of our organization contains the following objective: advocacy of non-repressive drug policy in CEECA, based on public health and human rights. We need a more detailed general position of the organization with a clear vision of expected outcomes supported by the majority of EHRA members for policy and advocacy work.

We expect that this consultation will result in a joint position of EHRA on drug policy, which will reflect our common vision of drug policy in the countries of our region in the future and will identify key approaches to achieve that objective with the help of EHRA members at the national level and by our common efforts at the regional and global level.

This consultation is intended to help us to:

Jointly explore trends in drug policy in our countries and sub-regions, the impact of political, economic, cultural and religious factors on possible drug policy reforms and understand what should be changed in order to achieve our goals.

Share the views among EHRA members on drug policy reform and define common regional priorities in drug policy. To achieve this, we need to understand if the Association is ready to set ambitious goals for drug policy reform such as legalization/regulation of drugs – or if we should focus on promoting alternatives to punishment at this stage, without changing the existing legal prohibition framework.

Discuss if it is realistic for EHRA to engage in “drugeconomics“: the analysis of the economic impact of repressive drug policy and the effectiveness of funding law enforcement approaches to “combat drug abuse”, discussing advocacy issues of redistribution of public funding from law enforcement to social support, harm reduction and re-socialization programs.

– Explore the initiatives and projects of the community aimed at decriminalization, protecting social and economic rights of people who use drugs and OST clients, and document the approaches that have shown positive results in drug policy reform in our region.

The consultation will also help EHRA improve its expert knowledge of drug policy and develop a regional expert database.

The consultation will be held in several stages:

Step 1: Analysis of human rights violations

EHRA will continue to collect information on systematic violations of human rights, achievements and issues faced of people who use drugs, best practices and the results of community-led projects in the field of drug policy and advocacy, in order to develop a regional review. The consequent working stage of this activity took place in May 2018 when the Global Commission on HIV and the Law announced its call for submissions of  complaints and best practices . If you did not have the opportunity to do this before May 15, you still may send a short description of violations of the rights of people who use drugs or a description of the results of advocacy and drug policy projects.

Timeline: until September 1, 2018

Please send your submissions or to Dasha Matyushina-Ocheret,

Step 2:  Webinars “Drug Policy: threats and opportunities”

We will conduct a series of webinars that will allow you to learn more about drug policy and voice your questions and opinions. It will also help us to ensure that EHRA position is based on scientific evidence and analysis of the consequences of repressive drug policy as well as the experience of countries with progressive drug policy.

EHRA will conduct a series of webinars on drug policy, to introduce the members of the Association to the key international and regional trends:

  • July 17: Alternatives to punishment for drug use and possession of drugs

  • July 31: Decriminalization, depenalization, legalization – what does it all mean in practice?

  • August 14: The rights of people who use drugs, or the right to use drugs: what do the international law and common sense tell us?

  • August 28: International drug policy: the preparation to the HLM on Drugs 2019

All webinars will be conducted and recorded in Russian and English. We will develop a series of information materials in Russian and English to distribute before the webinars start.

Step 3: Face-to-face consultation during the AIDS Conference in Amsterdam: “How does the repression of people who use drugs interfere with the response to HIV, TB and viral hepatitis in EECA? Are we ready to change the situation? “

The discussion on priorities of drug policy in CEECA will take place in the Regional EECA Space of the Global Village on July 26, 2018. Members of EHRA as well as other activists will take part in the debate. The objective of the consultation is to develop a common vision of the drug policy reform in CEECA and determine the priorities for advocacy at the regional and national levels during a live discussion.

Main issues to discuss:

– Overview of the data on impact of current drug policies on access of PWID to prevention, testing and treatment of HIV, hepatitis and TB. Country cases demonstrating the barriers created by criminalization;

-The wording of key regional priorities to counter repressive drug policies at the national and regional levels;

– Discussion of opportunities associated with the implementation of alternatives to punishment, focusing on sustainability of harm reduction services in CEECA;

– Creating partnerships and finding allies for effective advocacy for drug policy reforms at the national and regional level.

The discussion is open to all EHRA members involved in AIDS2018, as well as to partner NGOs and community networks.

The discussion will be broadcast online to ensure that the maximum number of EHRA members and partners could take part in the consultation.

We will develop a draft position of EHRA on drug policy based on the results of the consultation.

Step 4: Online discussion of the draft drug policy position

A draft of EHRA drug policy position develop in August 2018 and will be shared online for review by the members of the association and partner organizations. Several calls will be held to discuss the wording of the position, there will be an opportunity to make edits and suggestions in writing as well.

Timeline: 1-31 August 2018

Step 5: Approval of EHRA Drug Policy Position by the Steering Committee.

Timeline: September 2018

We are going to use the following communication platforms to ensure that the maximum number of EHRA members can take part in the discussion:

– the EHRA members list-serve

– a Facebook group

“Chase the Virus not People!” – join us on AIDS 2018!

The Team* of regional community networks of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, are joining forces during the XXII International AIDS Conference (July 22-27, 2018, Amsterdam, the Netherlands) in the campaign – “Chase the virus, not people!”

Our goal is to present to the world the impact of repressive, discriminatory laws and practices of their application, as well as stigma against key populations and people living with HIV. To achieve obligations to create an enabling legal environment and to involve key populations and people living with HIV in decision-making processes. We are ready to show the negative consequences of the reduction in international support and to seek global assistance to mobilize resources for stabilizing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the EECA region.

You can support the campaign and the EECA region on AIDS 2018!!! Please read all details!

What’s more: if you want to get the information on how to join the campaign, how to take part in actions and events in EECA Networking Zone in the Global Village at AIDS2018, please fill in – the brief questionnaire –

It’s time for joint actions! #СHASETHEVIRUS

Watch the Video of the Campaign

*EECA communities team: Eurasian Coalition on Male Health (ECOM), East Europe and Central Asia Union of People Living with HIV (ECUO), EECA Sex Workers’ Alliance, Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD), Eurasian Union of Adolescents and Youth “Teenergizer”, Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS (EWNA), Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN). Organizational partner – AFEW International (the Netherlands).

#KazOST – save OST in Kazakhstan!

To everyone. Urgently. Our friends and partners in Kazakhstan need support!

Participants of substitution therapy, public organizations of Kazakhstan apply for support to keep methadone treatment in their country.

Credentials to decide the future of the program were handed over to the law enforcement agencies. As a result, at the beginning of 2018 new people were not taken into the program, scientific and statistical facts about the effectiveness of treatment were distorted and on June 27 a decision will be made – whether or not the OST will be in Kazakhstan.

 EHRA calls – let’s act together! Let’s defend access to a vital methadone treatment in Kazakhstan!

  1. By June 25 (incl.), please sign a joint statement to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Be sure to include the name of your organization and the country. Eliza Kurcevic (EHRA) will collect your confirmations of your support to E-mail

Joint letter of support will be presented to journalists during the press-conference on June 26 in Kazakhstan.

  1. On June 26, come to the building of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in your country. Add photos near the embassy on your Facebook page, with the #KazOST, #EHRA, #SupportDontPunish hashtags.

 Show your support!


About Harm Reduction Funding

Guidance from World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) suggests that reversing an HIV epidemic requires 60% of all people who inject drugs (PWID) to be reached regularly by a needle syringe program (NSP), and that 40% of all opiate users be enrolled in opioid substitution therapy (OST).

Governments of Central and East Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) provide less than 15% of harm reduction funding needed in the region, which indicates region’s strong dependency on international donors who support both NSP and OST. At the same time, many of the countries in the CEECA region are becoming ineligible to receive donor funding due to increasing GNP per capita level. There are no more countries in CEECA that are classified as low-income – the funding priority for key donors such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Epidemics among PWID cannot be reversed without greater and sustained state funding of harm reduction. Investments are needed to improve service quality and coverage level of both NSP and OST. Governments and other domestic sources have responsibility for meeting these investment needs. Their increased and sustained engagement is essential because the Global Fund is swiftly withdrawing from the region to concentrate on supporting low-income countries across the globe.

One of the key priorities of Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is to build capacity of PWID communities in CEECA in budget advocacy – a process enabling civil society organizations and communities to monitor and influence state decisions for the allocation of public funds towards harm reduction programs and better solutions safeguarding people’s health.

Budget advocacy by communities may have the greatest impact on actions of authorities, and in its turn, on the lives of people. With that in mind we believe that:

  • It is crucially important to engage PWID community in planning through estimating the unmet needs for harm reduction services and defining priority items for a policy agenda change and financing;
  • Allow for direct financing of civil society through social contracting or similar mechanisms, to deliver harm reduction and HIV and TB services to PWID, is the most evident way for the governments to sustain services and funding;
  • An important consideration is that cost-effectiveness can best be obtained not by cutting services, but by making them more efficient through their optimization.

Increasing national funding should go hand in hand with reversing harsh prohibition laws and change of enforcement policies that discriminate PWID. Otherwise scale-up in funding would not convert to increased program coverage.


It’s been 6 years since the publication of the report on legal barriers affecting the HIV epidemics by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. The report stated that “… criminalization of drug use undermines HIV prevention and treatment programs based on human rights, including harm reduction programs” [1]. It also contained recommendations to promote laws, policies and practices that ensure effective and sustainable measures of HIV response based on human rights. During this period only a few countries out of many in EECA and the Baltic region have taken steps in the direction of implementing progressive drug policy.  Ukraine increases the minimum amount of marijuana from 5 grams up to 25 grams. Moldova and Estonia are developing a referral system and consider options to introduce alternative practices to imprisonment for drug use. Lithuania has finally introduced methadone programs in prisons, after we’ve been fighting for it in courts for seven years. However, methadone is only available for those who’ve already used it before being put behind bars.

The Global Dialogue, held this year, made it possible for governments, civil society, people living with HIV, representatives of key populations, as well as donors and international organizations provide the information on:

  1. Progress in implementing the recommendations of the Commission, the exchange of best practices of reforming repressive laws, policies and practices that impose barriers to effective HIV response and protection of human rights;
  2. The role of political leadership in the eliminating repressive laws and introducing protective laws, policies and practices to solve the remaining legal and regulatory barriers to treatment of HIV and co-infections such as tuberculosis and viral hepatitis;
  3. Changes in funding in the field of HIV, human rights and changing drug policy; and
  4. New emerging issues in the field of HIV science and lessons learned related to HIV and the law based on human rights based responses to HIV, including co-infections, such as tuberculosis and viral hepatitis, as well as general coverage by health services in the context of achieving Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

EHRA, together with its partner organizations led by people who use drugs / OST patients, have provided descriptions of situations in 5 EECA countries to show how granting the maximum level of authority to law enforcement agencies in terms of influencing harm reduction programs, such as social or medical services, can negatively affect lives of people who use drugs.  For example, how humane drug policy approach can make people sell their house to pay a fine. And if your don’t have a house to sell when you’re arrested for a second time, you’ll be incarcerated.

EHRA and its partners have filed five complaints showing the problems in our region for the whole world to see, describing what had already been done by the expert communities to change the situation and what steps it’s necessary to take in the future.

Belarus. Sergey Kryzhevich, the leader of “Tvoy Shans” ( “Your Chance”) – the national organization of participants in the substitution therapy program, filed a complaint based on evidence that OST clients are vulnerable because of the bureaucratic system of medical care in his country. The evidence is based on the strategic litigation case, a community-led field study and the results of advocacy actions of OST patients community and their partners in the Republic of Belarus.

Kazakhstan. EHRA spoke on its own behalf about the threat of closure of the OST program in the country.  The appeal is based on well-documented facts of rights violation of current and former participants of OST programs by the police officers who wanted to “find out” the information that would support the negative attitude of the police to maintaining OST programs in Kazakhstan. (The Document is in Russian).

The Kyrgyz Republic. Sergey Bessonov and Harm Reduction Association attracted the attention of the international community to the risks associated with introducing new Misdemeanor and Criminal Codes in Kyrgyzstan in 2019, that will raise the fines for possession of small amount of drugs, which consequently means possible incarceration for 5 years if a person fails to pay a fine of 4 800 euros for possession of up to 3.1 grams of cannabis within one month.

Lithuania. Possession of minimum amounts of drugs without intent of further sale has been criminalized again since 2017. “Molodaya Volna” (“The Young Wave”) spoke about the alarming situation of new cases of HIV and medical care in prisons. The organization also presented an individual case, showing the impact of criminalization on lives of people who use drugs.

Estonia. The Estonian Association of People who Use Psychoactive Substances (LUNEST) spoke about the human rights violations of women who use drugs. Two female representatives of the community filed individual appeals with the description of their stories.

We don’t know yet what cases will be included in the new report of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, as it took 18 months to create the previous report and it had to pass several stages of examination and approvals.  Therefore, we will continue our work with the members of the Commission during the AIDS2018 Conference to make sure that the issues of decriminalization, human rights and evidence-based drug policy are taken into account and included in the discussion and, perhaps, in the new report. It is also important to ensure that the report will include descriptions of the situation in our countries. The documented cases will help us submit reports on protection and implementation of the rights of people who use drugs to treaty and advisory bodies of the United Nations and use them for advocacy purposes in the future.

All our actions, performed at the international level, are aimed to show the real state of human rights systems and availability of programs for people who use drugs in the countries of our region. This information will assist the international committees and commissions in forming their position and providing arguments for dialogue with our governments.


Results of the EHRA’s General Meeting and Regional Meetings in Russia and South-Eastern Europe regions

During the May 21 to June 4, 2018 Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) conducted online General and Regional Meetings (in Russia and South-Eastern Europe) of its members. Quorums for the General and Regional meetings to elect new Steering Committee members needed no less than one third of the members.

Continue reading “Results of the EHRA’s General Meeting and Regional Meetings in Russia and South-Eastern Europe regions”