Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.December 1st is World AIDS Day. Its a good time to remind ourselves of the work left to be done with regards to the unnecessarily high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and HCV for those doing time in Canadian jails. This of course is directly related to Canada’s propensity for cruelty regarding the treatment of those who use illicit drugs. We treat drug use as a criminal rather than a health issue. We criminalize and incarcerate people who are likely already suffering terribly.
Not only do we remove them from whatever support systems they may have had, and force drug users to abandon their children, their homes and belongings, but we then lock them (known drug users) in places and refuse to provide them the healthcare services they need such as access to harm reduction equipment.
"A 1995 Corrections Canada survey found that prisoners in federal institutions are 30 times more likely than other Canadians to have injected illegal drugs."
Two Canadian agencies doing amazing and radical work in advocating for prisoners who are at risk of or who are HIV/AIDS, HCV positive, are the Prisoner’s HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN) and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
Some must read documents from them;
Clean Switch: The Case for Prison Needle Exchange in Canada – this 14 page document applies the Canadian Charter to prisoner rights to healthcare including harm reduction information and equipment.
A really important project the Legal Network took part in was the work done around including those most affected by drug use policy and criminalization – those who use the drugs.
Commemorating World AIDS Day 2011
For information on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and testing in Canada try these links:
One Life to Live
AIDS Service Organizations 411 - Canada
AIDS Committee of Toronto
PASAN - AIDS Services for Criminalized People with HIV