Organisations: The Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV
The Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV held a series of pickets and other events dedicated to the global campaign “Support Don’t Punish” in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The official opening of the photo exhibition “Everyone is important: stories of Kazakhstan people about the world drug problem in photos”, was held in Astana on June 26, 2018 and organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in partnership with USAID. The opening ceremony was attended by the author, a well-known photographer Nick Danziger, representatives of UNODC and USAID, as well as the patients of substitution therapy programs from various regions of Kazakhstan. The patients later joined civil activist in a campaign to support OST.
The actions in support of substitution therapy programs were necessary because the program had stopped accepting new patients since December 20, 2017 in Kazakhstan. This verdict on the results of the government inspection caused concern among public and medical workers, the patients of the substitution therapy program were panicking themselves. Moreover, a special interdepartmental commission was to be held on June 27, 2018 to decide the fate of the program! All the data showed that OST program was going to shut down on the entire territory of Kazakhstan.
The Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV launched an awareness campaign to attract the attention of decision-makers, so they could make the right and deliberate choice, and issued the following appeal together with the participants of OST programs:
“We, the citizens of Kazakhstan, the participants of opioid substitution therapy and those who stand in queues waiting for treatment, need access to treatment of drug dependence in our country. The right to life and the right to the highest level of health are guaranteed to us by the Declarations of Human Rights and the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The substitution maintenance therapy medicine is included to the WHO list of vital medicines. 320 people receive treatment in 13 cities in Kazakhstan today, the main purpose of which, like any other type of treatment, is to stabilize or improve the physical condition of a person. Drug dependence is a chronic disease and substitution therapy is an effective form of treatment.
The situation in Kazakhstan is currently threatening for the program and it might be closed. Meanwhile, this therapy is recognized all over the world as one of the most effective practices for drug dependence treatment. It is successfully implemented in 106 countries. The results of numerous studies indicate that OST positively contributes to reducing the use of illegal drugs and reduces mortality and the risk of HIV infection.
We ask you to protect and exercise our right to receive effective, evidence-based treatment.
The Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV has always supported drug users, because even the closest people turned away from many of them, and they could once again become clients of the illegal drug market, end up in prison or die. Everyone should have a chance to live!
We call on decision makers to protect and realize the right of these people to receive effective, evidence-based treatment for substitution therapy!
We ask community activists and all those who understand the importance of the program to support us! We ask you to publish videos, photos and stories on social networks so that this program could be saved, and people would have a chance to change and save their lives.
We will not be silent and afraid! We can change the situation! On June 26, Astana will host an action to defend OST”
Representatives of communities, non-governmental organizations from Astana, Almaty, and Temirtau, and other citizens held a picket to support OST on June 26, one day before the decision on the further existence of substitution therapy programs was to be made.
The activists spoke, proved, called and hoped that they would be heard by the decision makers. Hundreds of those who were already involved in the program hoped with us but those who wanted to be included to the program and stay alive were even more worried. After all, OST is a really last chance for a lot of people. 34 appeals and complaints from patients were sent to the Commissioner for Human Rights of Kazakhstan. A flash mob “Substitution therapy is my chance” aimed at drawing attention to the problem became very popular in social networks. A report was prepared together with the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Canadian HIV / AIDS Legal Network and later presented at the 62nd pre-sessional working group of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in Geneva.
The document contains 30 questions, but the question № 26 is of particular importance: “Please indicate the success of the measures taken by the state party to combat the flow of illicit drugs, such as cannabis and opiates, and to prevent their consumption. Please also provide information on measures taken to improve the quality of drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation services, including the provision of opioid substitution therapy.”
Addressing the government of Kazakhstan, the activists hoped that they would be heard and hundreds of people would not lose faith in the future and the programs of substitution therapy would upgrade from the pilot projects to the official form of treatment of drug dependence in Kazakhstan. Every patient should have the right to choose their treatment.
And we won!!! It was decided to continue the programs of substitution therapy in Kazakhstan on June 27! Take action!
Organisations: “Bridge to the Future”
The activists of the youth volunteer club “Bridge to the Future” and Center for development and social assistance to the population “My House” joined the international campaign “Support. Don’t Punish” in Temirtau, Kazakhstan. Its purpose is to show that punishment can’t be an effective measure to solve the problem of drug use, but on the contrary it only aggravates the situation!