June 22, 2005

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Drugs and AIDS in China

Today's must reads: the Jamestown Foundation's regular China Brief. The two highlights are Frank Ching's look at Hong Kong's leadership shuffle (nothing new but a good summary of the issues at hand) and especially Drew Thompson's The "People's war" against drugs and HIV/AIDS, which disucsses the intersection of China's acknowledgement and clampdown on illicit drugs with its AIDS control campaign. Here's the conclusion but the whole article is worth a read:

As anti-drug efforts intersect with the HIV/AIDS control agenda, the nexus can potentially lead to greater provision of comprehensive drug addiction treatment and temper uncompromising approaches towards drug users and harm reduction within the security and justice apparatuses. The threat of an HIV/AIDS epidemic has made the government and the public more sensitive to the issues of intravenous drug use. Preventing and harm reduction may ultimately require more services to both rural and urban drug users, as well as inmates within the detention system, including treatment, counseling, education, and even skills training to help drug abusers reintegrate into society upon their release. The urgency with which the Chinese government is addressing HIV/AIDS raises the potential for international or multisectoral cooperation within the detention system which would likely lead to incremental reforms and increased transparency.
At the same time the SCMP reports on promising drug rehab efforts in Yunnan province. Article reproduced below the fold. It's promising when countries approach the drugs issue as a health issue rather than a police one.

Yunnan province is to launch a pilot programme designed to put all drug addicts into rehabilitation centres in the latest effort to fight narcotics abuse. Authorities conducted three surveys last year to verify official records and found there were 68,000 drug addicts in the province.

Sun Dahong, vice-director of Yunnan's Public Security Bureau, said the province hoped to expand the capacity of its rehabilitation centres to accommodate 68,000 people in three years so that each addict could spend three months to two years in a centre. The present capacity is 36,000.

He said many addicts discharged from rehabilitation centres returned to their old habits because they did not stay in the centres long enough. "Three months should be enough for them to get rid of the addiction physically, but not psychologically," he said.

Yunnan will also promulgate laws to penalise local officials who do not report cases of drug addiction and there will also be new regulations to isolate HIV-positive drug addicts from other addicts.

The government will also provide funding to help addicts with drug rehabilitation fees. Drug addiction is a criminal offence on the mainland, with addicts sent to mandatory rehabilitation programmes, but they have to pay for their stays in the centres. If they are caught again after being discharged, police can send them to labour re-education centres for up to three years.

Li Yuanzheng , a deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security's narcotics control bureau, said the government had started experiments in five provinces to estimate the number of drug addicts through epidemiological methods.

Only recorded cases are shown in official statistics. Mr Li said the estimates derived from epidemiological methods ranged from 1.6 to 2.2 times the official numbers.

A total of 56,056 addicts were admitted to rehabilitation centres in Yunnan last year, compared with 35,913 in 2003. Just over 6,000 re-offending addicts were sent to re-education centres last year, up from 4,209 in 2003. In the first five months this year, 24,446 people were sent to mandatory rehabilitation centres while 3,877 addicts were sent to re-education centres.

Mr Sun said 10.68 tonnes of drugs were seized in Yunnan last year, including more than eight tonnes of heroin.

He also sounded the alarm over rapidly rising methamphetamine seizures, up 62 per cent in the first five months of the year compared to the same period last year. He said large methamphetamine plants had emerged in the Golden Triangle, where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos share a border, making the fight against the influx of the drug more complex.

Yunnan arrested 585 foreign traffickers last year, up 18 per cent from 2003, while 5,900 traffickers from other provinces were arrested, up 24.5 per cent. Figures for Yunnan-based traffickers were unavailable.

Mr Sun said drug traffickers were increasingly armed and organised, with 28 armed trafficking cases recorded last year and 446.9kg of drugs seized.

"Since the spreading trend of drugs has not been put under control, drug problems in some areas are quite outstanding," a report by the provincial narcotics control bureau said. "Drug problems have intertwined with Aids, ethnic and poverty problems, and seriously affected the stability, ethnic unity and development of the province."

Mr Sun said inspections by Chinese officials had confirmed that 65,864 hectares of poppy farms in northern Myanmar had been turned to ordinary farmland over the past 15 years through a mainland-funded programme.

But the vice-director said it was important that measures were in place to ensure the farms did not revert to poppy growing in the future.

posted by Simon on 06.22.05 at 01:18 PM in the


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