(Mexico City, September 13th; 11 AM) "Drugs cannot continue being the scapegoat for the metastasis of corruption, poverty, and injustice that our societies suffer from daily. We do not want less control of drug policies, rather a greater control," affirmed Jorge Hernández Tinajero, director of the Collective for a Comprehensive Policy towards Drugs (CUPIHD) upon opening the III Latin American Conference on Drug Policies, organized in conjunction with the civil association Intercambios from Argentina, which takes place today and tomorrow in the Crowne Plaza hotel of Mexico City.
César Nuñez, director of the Latin American Regional Support Team of UNAIDS; Philippe Lamy, Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO); Carlos Tena Tamayo, Mexican National Commissioner against Addictions (CONADIC) and Graciela Touzé, President of Intercambios Civil Association from Argentina also participated in the opening ceremony.
Hernández Tinajero noted that "the War on Drugs strikes emerging markets which are the most vulnerable to crime." He emphasized that, with the conference, "greater systems of control and policies that reflect human rights, that recognize the limits of the State versus individual decisions that do not affect third parties, that especially protect our young people, and that promote healthy life styles" must be found. "None of this is incompatible or impossible."
"The Conference is a political attempt to install a new paradigm regarding the drug topics" affirmed Graciela Touzé, President of Intercambios. She also posed the question: "Are drugs the cause of poverty, insecurity, and violence that affect entire countries, or is it the warlike paradigm that still holds on that which deepens the contradiction between drug polices and democracy?
The Argentine specialist concluded: "Historically the region has followed guidelines from the United States. It's time for an autonomous drug policy with a Latin American accent."
Meanwhile, César Nuñez, from UNAIDS, focused on the impact of HIV in injectable drug users "as one of the factors that is linked with HIV. We are in a world with 3 million people who are injectable drug users with the risk of contracting HIV. In Mexico, 5 of every 100 injectable users live with HIV."
Among the UN-set objectives include a 50% reduction in the transmission of HIV/AIDS within drug users by the year 2015. Nuñez affirmed that "for this goal, it's necessary to bring new infections among drugs users, deaths caused by HIV, and discrimination down to zero. Some say that this is a too ambitious goal, however it has already been almost achieved in the case of newborns." His conclusion was clear: "What we need aren't technical answers but political decisions."
From the World Health Organization (WHO), Philippe Lamy highlighted that "the right to public health must be guaranteed, the use of solid epidemiological data is fundamental, we need to offer health treatments and we must support drug usage research and monitoring."
For his part, Carlos Tena Tamayo, Mexican National Commissioner against Addictions (CONADIC), said that a national poll on drugs from the year 2008 demonstrated that "in the country, 1.2 million people use drugs but only 400 thousand have addiction problems. This is a low rate in relation to the global average, but this increase is concentrated in underage people, especially women. At the national level, the most serious problem is alcohol addictions."
Tena Tamayo listed the challenges of treating addictions in Mexico: 1) strengthening the "New Life" network of care centers, 2) investing in better professional treatment centers with a clear gender perspective, 3) improving provisions regarding drug dealing, 4) forming health teams so that they can be prepared to treat drug users, and 5) generate a national monitoring center for drug topics.
Throughout both days of the Conference, the consequences of the War on Drugs, the location of Latin America, security and human rights, health alternatives, and drugs and worldviews will all be debated. Additionally, 13 meetings of various related topics will be held at the conference and this afternoon, at 5:15 PM, the Latin American Award on Drug Journalism will be awarded, which distinguishes the articles that best addressed problems associated with drugs.
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