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David Furnish urges "Leave no one behind” in the fight against HIV.

18 February 2015

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Yesterday our chairman David Furnish wrote an article in the Independent, urging the world to leave no one behind in the fight against AIDS. People who Inject Drugs are one of the key populations that have the highest prevalence of HIV and whose access to HIV services is severely limited. Below is an extract from the article and information about one of our projects funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

“For the last few decades, those of us in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS have rallied around two powerful words: Ending AIDS.

And while we are closer to that goal than we have ever been, another set of words threaten to undermine so much of our progress: Left Behind.

In most communities, People who Inject Drugs still don’t have access to clean syringes, opioid substitution treatment, or naloxone to prevent overdose and the spread of infections. Moreover, many People who Inject Drugs are still denied access to basic health services, non-judgmental primary care, mental health and drug treatment services, and the support they need to maintain stable and healthy lives.

How can it be that over the past 15 years science has delivered approximately 14m antiretrovirals to people living with HIV, but still managed to exclude 96 percent of People who Inject Drugs?

The evidence has long been in: harm reduction is extremely effective in curbing HIV transmissions. It was endorsed long ago by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) as a vital tool in the global response to the epidemic. It must be a well-funded vision, grounded in science and implemented in a manner that will reach all who are in need. Because to truly end AIDS, we must make sure that no one is Left Behind.

In places where comprehensive harm reduction has been implemented, HIV rates among People who Inject Drugs are the lowest and in some cases almost negligible. It was the primary reason that the HIV/AIDS epidemic among drug users in cities like London, San Francisco, Sydney, Amsterdam and Berlin was avoided when AIDS first surfaced in the early 1980s.

East African countries like Kenya and Tanzania are cases in point. Further HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa driven by drug use are as concerning as they are avoidable. Luckily, both are implementing programs around harm reduction. The Elton John AIDS Foundation currently supports Médecins du Monde in its scale-up of harm reduction services for drug users in Tanzania. The programme aims to reach 12,000 People Who Use Drugs, with at least 25% of those testing for HIV and linked to care, if found to be positive. Less than a year into the programme, over 2,000 people have been tested for HIV, with an average HIV prevalence of around 12% - almost 3 times that of the general population of Tanzania"

To read the full article click the link below.