Mr. Elie Aaraj - Speech during UNODC/MENAHRA Conference

MENAHRA and UNODC organized a joint Regional Conference on Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) - Needle and Syringe Programme (NSP). The Conference took place in Casablanca, Morocco from 11-13 November 2014.

The main objectives of the Conference were to build regional capacities, advocate for OST and NSP as priorities of the comprehensive harm reduction services, and provide a forum for the national harm reduction task forces to showcase their own initiatives and achievements, discuss their challenges while networking across the region and exchanging expertise. Additionally, one of the main outcomes of this Conference was to represent expert opinions of its participants to address HIV prevention, treatment, care and support among People Who Inject Drugs.

MENAHRA Executive Director Mr. Elie Aaraj gave the following speech during this conference:

I am happy to be here in Morocco once again, and glad to have this collaboration between the MOH in Morocco, UNODC, and MENAHRA.
We believe that it is the time to face the reality of HIV in our region. We are all responsible for addressing the increase of HIV prevalence in the MENA.

The security and political situation in many countries is negatively affecting the health care system. While HIV is spreading to reach one of the highest number of new cases reported each year worldwide, other priorities have risen which have decreased government commitments to HIV response.
We, the CSOs in the region, consider ourselves as part of the response and thus we take part of the responsibility.

In this part of the world we need to think strategically and plan to scale up the response to HIV. We need to present a comprehensive package of services that starts by prevention and reaches to harm reduction.

Dear colleagues, 

We all know that the instable security in our region is leading to an increase in drug traffic and drug use.
We also know, that we are facing a hepatitis epidemic among injecting drug users in some countries due to the fact that sharing equipment is still a common behavior. 

We have to address this by using different strategies that are based on public health and human rights.

We believe that drug users are not criminals, they are citizens and they have rights. 

We believe that providing them with health services is an obligation, their access to services is a right.

We cannot accept nowadays that the only service addressing this population in some of our countries is prison. The long history of war against drugs has failed. It hasn’t reached its objectives. We need to collaborate and join our efforts for a review of existing strategies.
We need to face reality and take more human rights sensitive actions. Harm reduction is on the top of them.