drug policy

TB HIV Care Voices: The highs and lows of a ‘drug policy’ person

Staff blog. Submitted by: Shaun Shelly (PWUD Projects, Policy, Advocacy and Human Rights Manager)

Life as a ‘drug policy’ person is, perhaps not surprisingly, full of highs and lows. Here are some examples from the last few weeks:

HIGH: The City of Tshwane became the first city in South Africa to fund the implementation of harm reduction services, including needle and syringe services and opioid substitution therapy.

LOW: The City of eThekwini became the first city to stop TB HIV Care from distributing sterile injecting equipment to people who inject drugs.

HIGH: The National Department of Health, UNAIDS and the South African National AIDS Council confirmed their support for the Step Up Project, and asked that the services be reopened.

LOW: The eThekwini Municipality said “No”. The saga continues…. For more about our essential HIV prevention services for people who inject drugs, click here.

HIGH: The University of Essex invited me to participate in an author’s workshop. The book: The War on Drugs and the Global Colour Line, has a chapter written by me, (Drug policy in South Africa: A perpetuation of Apartheid?) which sounds exciting, but…

LOW: The war on drugs has become a politically expedient way for politicians to escape accountability. This is a worldwide pattern and the authors shared how the war on drugs justifies extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, Brazil, China and other countries.

HIGH: I headed to London for a series of meetings with various funders and partners. For once, I was ahead of schedule and had managed to book a very nice Air BnB.

LOW: When I arrived, needing a shower before running to my meetings, I arrived at the building I was staying at and saw this:

[HIGH] There is a hotel next door where I can get a room, but [LOW] at R6000 a night! [HIGH] The hotel let me shower and leave my luggage there free of charge. Off to my meetings…

The rest of the week had many HIGHS. I was able to meet with the International Network of People Who Use Drugs, the International Drug Policy Consortium, EQUAL and Harm Reduction International.

The only LOW was a HIGH I did not expect in London – the temperature – above 35 degrees. I nearly made the headlines: South African Dies of Heatstroke…IN LONDON!

The biggest HIGH was attending the launch of Neil Wood’s new book Drug Wars. Neil is a former undercover police officer who has written about the harm caused by the war on drugs in his bestseller Good Cop, Bad War. Neil spoke at last year’s SA Drug Policy Week.

[MASSIVE HIGH] Neil thanked me personally for being an inspiration in the acknowledgements section of the book.

[LOW] He spelt my name wrong!

If you don’t want a life like a rollercoaster, full of highs and lows, stay away from drugs and drug policy.