By Gloria Lai for BioMed Central. In response to HIV epidemics amongst people who inject drugs, harm reduction measures have been rolled out in varying degrees in most countries in Asia over the past two decades. During the same period, many governments began claiming that they adopt a health-based approach to drug use.
However, policy responses to drug use in Asia (as in the rest of the world) have remained overwhelmingly focused on punishment, ranging from criminalization to corporal punishment and compulsory detention centres (regarded as ‘rehabilitation centres’ but providing no evidence-based treatment interventions and leading to human rights violations including forced labor, physical and sexual abuse).
Impeded by such brutally punitive legal environments, the coverage of harm reduction measures remains inadequate across the region – and, as a result, HIV and hepatitis epidemics amongst people who inject drugs remain a serious public health concern in many countries.