The direct speech of Oksana Ibragimova, Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV and the member of EHRA’s Steering Committee at the 65 session of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (*CESCR) meeting:
My name is Oksana Ibragimova, I represent the Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV. We work with the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Canadian HIV / AIDS Legal Network. In my four-minute speech, I want to focus the attention of the Committee on the main problem that hinders the prevention of HIV infection among people who use drugs, including opioid substitution therapy.
I am talking about criminalization of drug use, including the criminalization of drug possession for personal use. Due to criminalization, the main focus of drug policy in Kazakhatsan is on law enforcement, and not on health care.
It is precisely because of the resistance of the law enforcement agencies that the substitution treatment program in Kazakhstan is threatened with closure. The repression of law enforcement against people who use drugs is responsible for the increased vulnerability of people who use drugs to HIV. More than 50% of new HIV cases occur due to the use of non-sterile equipment for injecting drug use.
In its responses to the Committee’s List of Questions, Kazakhstan indicated that it is the Ministry of the Interior that is responsible for drug prevention. “Preventive registry of drug users” is indicated in the responses as preventive measures. This is a measure by which people who seek medical care are denied in their rights. This registry is not only not conducive to drug prevention. It impedes the realization of the right to health. This is just one of the examples showing that the police structure is not able to engage in adequate prevention among young people and among the most vulnerable and socially marginalized groups of the population. An excessive focus on law enforcement and repressive drug control measures hinders HIV prevention and other health measures among people who use drugs.
Drug policy issues need to be passed from the hands of law enforcement to the hands of public health, public education, and social support systems for the most marginalized groups.
In this regard, in addition to the recommendations on substitution treatment, we ask the Committee to recommend to the Republic of Kazakhstan to change the repressive focus of drug policies in regard to people who use drugs and, in particular, to decriminalize drug possession without sales goal.
* – Established in 1985, CESCR is a UN human rights body consisting of 18 independent experts that monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its States parties, which are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented in their countries. The Committee’s rules allow for international, regional, and national organizations and human rights institutions to submit parallel reports with questions for governments in advance of the dialogue with the states.