Support. Don’t Punish is a global grassroots-centred advocacy campaign that raises the awareness on the harms caused by “War on drugs” and the criminalization of people who use drugs. The campaign’s Global Day of Action is June 26, which was recognized by the UN as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The governments have long used this day as the day to commemorate the achievements of their “successful drug policies”. Those achievements, for the most part, represent the criminalization, incarceration and punishment of people who use drugs, and further deterioration of livelihood of marginalized communities and people living in poverty.
Support. Don’t Punish chooses to reclaim the day of June 26 in order to mobilize against violence, discriminatory policies, and “the War on People”, and calls for drug policies that put human rights, health, harm reduction, and development at their centre.
As AIDS Action Europe, we recognize the damage imposed on the communities and people by harsh criminalizing measures and by the effect of those measures to harm reduction and health services. Harm reduction is an important tool based on evidence and humanity, empathy, and well-being of individuals; it is indispensable in HIV prevention efforts. And, discriminatory, criminalizing drug laws are major barriers on the road of the utilization of this tool for the best of the community.
In support of the campaign, we asked our members who work on the ground with people who use drugs, and who are involved in the campaign to share their local experiences.
Marios Atzemis, Positive Voice, Greece – member of the AAE Steering Committee:
“To my understanding, SDP (Support. Don´t Punish) has a symbolic value because the campaign climaxes on the ''Global Day against Drugs'' which it calls ''World Drug Day'' (so do ‘‘we’’, where we stands for the community and the NGOs)
It is actually against not only the stereotypes but the ''dominant ideology'' regarding treatment and users. It stands against recovery language as well (like the word ''clean'' for sober people). And of course it is opposed to the “tough love'' and ''rock bottom'' programs which are actually tools of molestation towards the beneficiaries (trust me, been there!)
Moreover, probably it is the one and only campaign that actually supports and engages ACTIVE USERS. It is also most of the times supported by a local users union and drug user-friendly NGOs and OST units. In Greece, the campaign is actually supported from the users union of PeerNUPS (Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances) and the other NGOs of the so called ''Platform of Civil Society for Psychoactive Substances'' (Positive Voice, Praksis, MsF (Doctors without Borders), Prometheus, etc.)
Furthermore, the most interesting subject matters all these years were law enforcement agencies and the proper way to deal with people in open drug scenes, the harshness and the inhumane ways of substance free treatments, prison settings, PWUD etc.”
Nicoletta Dascalu, Association against AIDS (ARAS), Romania:
“According to the official figures, there are around 10.000 problematic drug users in Bucharest. At present, the harm reduction services cover only around 300 of them with clean needles, which are distributed by two NGOs: ARAS and Carusel, with money from the last GFATM grant (aimed at TB, but including a very small budget for harm reduction). December 2020 and the first three months of 2021 saw the near collapse of harm reduction in Bucharest and we are heading for a similar situation in November if the authorities do not take action and do not fund these services.
There have been successful pilot projects - the Cityhall has funded three consecutive projects of HIV/AIDS prevention among vulnerable persons, implemented by ARAS, and everything went smoothly. So, the solution exists. We do not have to reinvent the wheel or to test other methods.
ARAS declared June 2021 the Support, Don't Punish month, and we plan to contact all the institutions and persons responsible for the health of the people in Bucharest and for the health and access to services of Romanian citizens in general.
Bucharest´s mayor, the mayors of the 6 sectors of the Capital, the Directorates of Social Assistance, the ministers of Health, Justice, Social Assistance, the heads of health commissions in the Parliament, the President, the head of the National Antidrug Agency, they will all be informed once again about the situation and will be asked to state their position and their solution.
The media will be informed by two press releases, at the beginning and at the end of June.
ARAS Facebook and Instagram accounts will promote our activities and spread the word about the situation in this field.”