The Institute of Medicine recently published Preventing HIV Infection among Injecting Drug Users in High Risk Countries: An Assessment of the Evidence (2006), highlighting research that found that access to sterile injecting equipment and opiate substitution treatment effectively reduces the spread of HIV among injecting drug users (IDUs). Outside Africa, UNAIDS estimates that nearly one in three HIV infections is due to injecting drug use, yet HIV prevention services reach only 5 percent of the world's injection drug users. The report highlights this alarming fact by focusing on China, Thailand, and Russia and calls on governments to take immediate action to curb HIV among IDUs.
Unfortunately, there is a stark absence of a human rights framework. The article fails to hold governments accountable to adopting effective policies, saying for example "...HIV prevention interventions for IDUs should be tailored to local circumstances and implemented in a culturally appropriate manner". Too often "cultural norms" have been used as an excuse for horrendous rights abuses against individuals who use drugs. In order to effectively apply the research presented by IOM's scientists, a rights-based approach is necessary to overcome local stigma and discrimination.