Archive for the ‘HIV’ Tag

If the UN trust politicians, should we trust them?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Another international agency has formally documented its concerns about the UN’s data collection methods around international levels of drug use. In my article about Count The Costs’ Alternative World Drug Report, I mentioned that the UN’s report about drug use across the globe had been criticised for relying on government self-reporting – leaving opportunities for those in power to be less transparent than we might hope. Opaque, in fact.

This time, Harm Reduction International has released a formal challenge to the UN figures. This worldwide organisation claims that the data collected by the UN is incomparable to the 2008 data due to the difference in the methods of data collection, and that, again, government self-reporting is unreliable and unscientific. Given that over a third of the data set collected were done so by annual review questionnaires – completed by governments without any traceable references to how data was collected – analysis of the results is impossible given the lack of openness about how the figures were compiled.

Worryingly, it seems that some countries may be under-reporting their levels of drug use and HIV infection. Russia, for example, have reported that HIV rates amongst their injecting drug using population have almost halved in the last three years. Even considering why a country would want to do this feels quite sinister – but the potential impact on service provision for the drug users with the highest health needs within these countries is frightening.

Harm Reduction International have taken the decision to ignore the UN’s most recent global data, and instead continue to refer to the 2008 figures, where data collection methods were less subjective. They acknowledge that this data is out-dated but, until peer review of the data is possible, they feel the new data may misrepresent the actual international situation. They do, however, recommend that the data is considered on a country-to-country basis, as some countries have provided apparently sound figures.

I suppose this raises questions for me about the integrity of the United Nations and the standards of their publications, and the lack of power they apparently now have in extracting reliable data from politicians. This means that, instead of international agencies working together to tackle the global problems the drug trade produces, there are rifts between them – and confidence in the organisation central to finding some conclusions and solutions is weakened.

On a different note, I do also want to apologise here for my lack of consistency with my blogs recently, which I have otherwise been writing faithfully every week for the last year. I am pleased to say it is because I have some exciting new ventures afoot, which have been sapping me of my time and energy – but I am fully back on board now, pen poised, and will be bothering you with new posts yet again.

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Heroin for the poor, cannabis for the sick, and the death of an anti-capitalist dream

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

There have been some interesting additions to our previous ponderings in the news this week.

Drugs in medicine

A US collaboration between a medical research team and a centre for substance misuse research have found that cannabanoids can reduce the replication of the HIV virus in white blood cells. This may also relieve inflammation of the central nervous system, reducing symptoms of HIV-related neurocognitive disorders. The broader applications of these findings to other disorders are now being considered.

If we think back to Cancer Patients With Acid Smiles, here is another example of the US striding ahead because they are changing their angle on substances. Cannabis is no longer illegal in some American states, making it free game for medical research, and, as Professor Nutt pointed out, we are slowing down progress in tackling some of our worst illnesses by limiting the substances we consider for treatment.

By way of comparison, a prescribable Naloxone injection becomes available in the UK this week. I have been reading recent discussions on American websites about the huge problem that opiate (illicit and prescribed) overdose is causing over there, as I waved the British flag with news of the work being done in Wales where heroin users and their families have been trained to administer Naloxone. It seems, given the market launch of the product, that this life-saving product is now available to anyone over here. Hooray for harm reduction.

Afghan heroin trade continues to boom

The United Nations has apparently released data suggesting an eighteen percent growth in Afghanistan’s opium trade in the last year. As I suggested in Smacktastic Britian, this correlates nicely with the Government’s poor-battering, and we are bound to see a new wave of heroin use across the country. Maybe David Cameron should read Cameron Does Cocaine and get the bloody stuff taxable sharpish. It would certainly fit in with his other policies if he could provide an actual opiate for the (poor) people. Make it half-price on election day to keep the buggers at home. Although given that the CIA have reportedly been sending over suitcases stuffed with cash for eleven years now, maybe that trade route has already been baggsied. After all, the Americans are the originals (and the best) when it comes to using substances for social control.

Silk Road taken down by hacker

And finally, the website Silk Road was briefly closed down by hackers this week. It is thought the anonymity software Tor, which became known as ‘the dark web’ because of its uses for the grimier side of the net, is to blame for the problem, and that vulnerabilities in the system may have been exposed. This has come in the same week that the Bitcoin system has also been breached, as a software specialist illegally ‘mined’ an amount of the currency for himself. Unsurprisingly, the virtual currency continues to drop in value.

All of which is proof that, if someone is clever enough to develop a system, there will always be someone clever enough to cheat it. It saddens my socialist ideals that the person who tried to take on the banking system wasn’t superiorly intelligent (in my mind he is a masked hero called Merchant Wanker – make love, not profit), but, as we have to accept, there are vultures everywhere, and nobody likes a clever clogs.

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