In many countries, the police arrest sex workers and people who use drugs just for carrying clean needles, condoms, or entering a treatment clinic.
This approach is fueling the HIV epidemic. It has to stop. Now, even police officers are speaking out in agreement. More than 4,000 police officers—from over 30 countries—recently signed a statement supporting law-enforcement practices that protect rather than damage public health.
The following originally appeared on "the Huffington Post" :
As police officers, we were trained to regard drug users and sex workers as public enemies. However, in recent years, we—officers with a combined seven decades of experience—are realizing that the impact of the HIV epidemic means that law enforcement needs a serious review.
Globally, drug trafficking remains a critical criminal issue. But it is petty drug users—sick people, not kingpins—who are filling the prisons. This criminalization of injection drug users has been accompanied by a steady rise in HIV cases. In many of the countries we have visited, condoms are treated as contraband and criminalized groups like sex workers and drug users are often forced to choose between protecting their health, and staying safe from police harassment or arrest.
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