The Vienna Declaration and HIV/AIDS

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 8-7-10

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 8-7-10.

Question of the Week:  Is there a relationship between HIV/AIDS and drug policy?

The most recent annual statistics concerning HIV/AIDS come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It reported that, from the beginning of the epidemic through 2007, an estimated 583,298 persons in the US have died from AIDS. A total of 1,030,832 persons reportedly had AIDS in 2007.

AIDS is prevalent in Europe where 48,892 newly diagnosed HIV cases were reported in 49 of the 53 EU countries. The situation in the Russian Federation is particularly dire as detailed in a Human Rights Watch report that determined

“being in prison or other state detention is an important risk factor for HIV in Russia.”

Prison is a risk factor in the United States as well. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that,

“At yearend 2008, a reported 21,987 inmates held in state or federal prisons were HIV positive or had confirmed AIDS.”

Another risk factor for HIV/AIDS is race. The CDC concluded that HIV was the 22nd leading cause of death in the US for whites, the 13th leading cause of death for Hispanics, and the 9th leading cause of death for blacks.

These factors and more served as the basis for the Vienna Declaration, which was launched at the 18th International AIDS Conference held recently in Vienna, Austria from July 18th to 23rd. The declaration was drafted by a team of leading international HIV experts. It stated simply,

“The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed.”

These facts and others like them can be found in the HIV/AIDS, Race & HIV, and European Union chapters of Drug War Facts at

Questions concerning these or other facts concerning drug policy can be e-mailed to