Drug dependence isn’t a crime, it’s a medical condition

It’s time that evidence, not stigma, drive SA’s drug policies.

South Africa has taken a lead in the HIV response, but HIV won’t be overcome until the country faces some hard truths about drug abuse and its own prejudices.

South Africa has paved the way for evidence-based prevention, treatment and care. The country defied private interests when, for example, it took major pharmaceutical companies to court in 2001 in an attempt to offer the best access to treatment for its citizens. It went on to become one of the few countries in the region to commit to funding the bulk of its treatment programme nationally.

South Africa has also led in ensuring human rights are respected in its HIV response, developing community-based outreach programmes to diminish stigma and discrimination.

But the world has changed a great deal since South Africa first began to tackle HIV in the early 2000s — and so too has the epidemic. By 2015,  almost half of all people living with HIV were on treatment in South Africa, according to UNAids.

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