In this episode of the oral history of the movement of people who use drugs, we learn about the successes and challenges in Australia, from four veterans of the user movement.
The history of the movement of people who use drugs in Australia is a long and rich one. It is one of the few countries that has funded user organisations for over 30 years now.
In this episode of our series, four veterans of the user movement in Australia tell us the oral history of the movement. They are Jude Byrne from the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL), Annie Madden and Charles Henderson from the New South Wales Users and AIDS Association (NUAA), and Geoffrey Ward from the Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy (CAHMA).
In the ‘80s when HIV appeared among people who inject drugs, the Australian government wisely responded by involving drug users in the design and implementation of their response. This approach resulted in minimising HIV infections among users in the country. The activists successfully advocated for the opening of medically supervised injecting rooms, first in Sydney and recently in Melbourne. Naloxone distribution is run by the user groups as well.
Despite their successes, their work is far from done. They tirelessly fight to end prohibition and the harms arising from it, including the zero tolerance approach to drugs at dance festivals, which results in the deaths of young people who, out of fear of being caught, swallow their week’s supply; the drug testing of drivers for cannabis, where your license can be taken away if you test positive, even though you used days before; or the removal of children from their drug-using mothers, regardless of how she treats her child.
In this episode we also learn about how New Zealand successfully responded to the HIV epidemic by being one of the first countries to have a national needle and syringe exchange program.
Starting on Monday, 6th of July 2020, we publish one episode per week for 10 weeks. The episodes follow the timeline of the development of the movement of people who use drugs from Amsterdam to Afghanistan and globally.
The production of the series has been a great adventure. We conducted 34 video interviews in 20 countries around the world. 8 interviews were filmed by the Rights Reporter Foundation, the rest by members of our Drugreporter Video Advocacy Network, video activists, and freelance videographers worldwide.
The documentary series is part of the online conference “HIV 2020: Community Reclaiming the Global Response” which runs from July through October of 2020.
An alliance of global key population-led networks, networks of people living with HIV, treatment activists, and our supporters, has formed to organize an alternative international community-led online event.
The HIV2020 alliance has decided to organize the community-led event to provide an alternative for individuals who cannot or will participate in the AIDS2020 virtual conference. Its goal is to offer new opportunities to reaffirm the leading role communities play in the global HIV response.
To view each new episode every Monday, beginning today, visit this page.
This project was made possible by the financial support of the Bridging the Gaps Programme. This unique programme addresses the common challenges faced by sex workers, people who use drugs and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in terms of human rights violations and accessing much-needed HIV and health services. Go to www.hivgaps.org for more information.
Special thanks goes to Tonny van Montfoort, EuroNPUD representative on the INPUD Board, for driving this oral history project forward and setting out the creative vision.
István Gábor Takács