Monday, 28 November 2011

How long would it take you to score drugs?

Our friends at ask Londoners how easily they could score cannabis and cocaine.

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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Letter writing campaign: HIV in Russia

This World Aids Day, SSDP is supporting the International Network of People who Use Drugs'campaign for harm reduction policies to be implemented in Russia.

Russia has about 1.7 million injecting drug users with only 70 needle exchanges. In 2008, UNAIDS estimated that just 7% of injecting drug users had access to these services. Learn more about the situation in Russia here.

We are asking SSDP activists to take the time around World Aids Day to write to the Russian embassy to call for change. There is a model letter below, but feel free to change it if you like. Maybe your chapter could run an Amnesty International style letter writing session? Let us know if you get any interesting replies, by emailing education[at]

Dear Ambassador,

In most of the developed world, HIV/AIDS is successfully fought using a variety of harm-reduction and health-led approaches, as recommended by UNAIDS, the WHO and the UNODC. On average, countries adopting such approaches have HIV rates among 5% amongst injecting drug users.

However, over a third of Russia’s 1.7million injecting drug users are HIV positive, a number which continues to rise through the lack of access clean needles or opioid substitution therapy.

I request that Russia considers the implementation of the following measures:

· Increase the provision of life-saving programmes such as opiod substitution treatment and needle exchange programme

· Provide free access to antiviral therapy for all HIV positive people, including those who inject drugs.

· Cease persecuting Russian activists and organisations that are calling for the introduction of harm reduction programmes and for a drug policies based on scientific evidence and human rights.

· Recognise that people who use drugs must be at the forefront of designing drug policies and programmes.

· Cease criminalising the possession and use of drugs, which is a major barrier for people who inject drugs to access the harm reduction services available.

I trust that you will take action to reduce the harms associated with drug use in Russia.

Believe me, My Dear Ambassador,

Yours sincerely,

[SSDP Chapter or Area]

Send your letters to: His Excellency Alexander Vladimirovich Yakavenko, The Russian Ambassador, 6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QP. Call +44 (0) 20 7229 6412, + 44 (0) 20 7229 7281 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7727 8625. Email:

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Friday, 18 November 2011

What are you doing for World Aids Day?

World Aids Day on December 1st is a chance to remember those we have lost to HIV/Aids and to mobilise around harm reduction campaigns. Drug users as a group continue to be effected by HIV/Aids and its important that grassroots organisations like SSDP get involved in organising events and campaigns to support those living with HIV/Aids and to campaign for harm reductionist policies. There are plenty of things that SSDP activists can do on their campuses and in their communities to observe the occasion, we have come up with a short list of ideas of things to do but it is in no way exhaustive. We have also tried to ensure that we have ideas that both activists in chapters and without chapter support can organise.

1. Run an event!
Run an event which highlights some of the issues around HIV/Aids on your campuses and in your communities. Perhaps join up with other groups and societies who might also be interested (charity groups, LGBT Societies, human rights groups, etc.) Many student unions now have groups like Universities Allied for Essential Medicines or Student Stop Aids who do a lot of work on advocating for increased access to HIV/Aids medicines, and who are usually very informed and might be up for a joint event. Perhaps you can get an external speaker from a charity or campaign in during the week around World Aids Day, or read up about the situation in Russia where about 60% of new cases of HIV are IV drug related and give a presentation or run a discussion group about the issue. If you can, film it and send us a copy of the video!

2. Write an article for this blog / your student paper / your local paper
For the week around World Aids Day we will be trying to get articles specifically focused on HIV/Aids out to you via this blog - if you want to write something please get in touch by emailing education[at] Writing articles for your local student/community paper is also really important in raising the profile of SSDP and creating awareness around not just how drug users are effected by HIV/Aids, but some of the past activism and solutions the drug using community have developed, such as community ran needle exchanges.

3. Run an event to a local HIV/Aids vigil
Nearly every city will have a local candlelit vigil to commemorate those we have lost. Why not bring your chapter along to one? Think about bringing a banner, placard or flyers to raise awareness of how HIV/Aids affect drug users, but make sure you get in contact with the organisers of the vigil for permission first as it might not be seen as appropriate. And if you don't have a local vigil - create one! Get in touch with other groups who might be interested (charity societies on campuses and in communities, LGBT societies, etc. ) and get something going!

4. Run an SSDP stall which fundraises for a local HIV/Aids campaign/charity
Running a stall on campus or in your communities is a great way to improve the profile of SSDP, and to recruit new members. Why not use the opportunity to fundraise for a local HIV/Aids campaign or charity as well? Make sure you check out our guide to running a stall before you set out!

5. Write a letter to the Russian Embassy
This year SSDP will be running a letter-writing campaign all throughout December in solidarity with people who inject drugs in Russia, where the rates of HIV infection within this community is shockingly high. We will be supporting the International Network of People who Use Drugs campaign on the issue, and launching a letter writing campaign a few days before World Aids Day. Perhaps you could hand out copies of letters to the Russian embassy at any events you organise or take people along to, or organise a letter writing session on your campuses or communities.

6. Join the online vigil
Take a photo of yourself with a candle and a sign saying "World Aids Day 2011: Remember those who we have lost, Campaigning for Harm Reduction" which can be found here (or make your own customised sign) and send it to education[at] to take part in our online vigil. Once you have made the sign, why not go round and get friends/family/members of the public to join in and send in their pictures too? Remember to take around a mailing list as you do incase anyone is interested in future events. An example of how it should look:

It is good practice at any of the events in person or on facebook events, flyers, etc. to give information to your members and members of the public about where the local places you can get tested for HIV are. You might also want to mention Sex, Drugs and HIV, a fundraising project for various charities working on aspects of HIV issues, including our friends at Release.

Finally, don't forget to tell us what you are up to, email education[at] with stories and photos of what you have done to commemorate World Aids Day.

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