BY KUDZAI CHITSATSO STUDENTS for Sensible Drug Policy Zimbabwe (SSDP) yesterday hosted an anti-drugs campaign anchored on the organisation’s thrust of putting harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of communities targeted by the “war on drugs”.
The campaign, which was held at Stordart Hall in Mbare, ran under the banner Support Don’t Punish. Its major highlight every year is the Global Day of Action, which takes place on, or around, June 26, which is the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
SSDP is a global grassroots network of students and youths who are concerned about the impact of drug use in communities.
In an interview with Standard Style on the sidelines of the campaign yesterday, SSDP national coordinator Vimbai Derker said the event was meant to put harm reduction, decriminalisation, and community engagement firmly on agendas.
“The event is running under the Support Don’t Punish campaign, a global movement which was organised in 2013,” Derker said.
“It gives awareness and is trying to address issues which were caused by the war on drugs where by drug users were being criminalised and they ended up as victims.
“So in our campaign we are saying that drug users are human beings and we are advocating on humanity on drug policies which are not harsh.
“For example, if one is caught using marijuana and he is locked up with real criminals, that person is going to engage in other criminal actives or other habits which are dangerous.
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“So, as SSDP we are saying okay these people are using drugs, but they also need access to health services because in the society were are experiencing death of drug users who are being deprived from health care services.”
“So we are also advocating for harm reduction that is the prevention of risks which are associated with the use of drugs for example HIV and Aids.”
Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN) project officer Knowledge Mupembe weighed in saying the Support! Don’t Punish campaign was a shift from the criminalisation of drug use across the world to a situation that the use of drugs is a public health issue and not a criminal issue.
“The campaign’s significance from a ZCLDN perspective is that we want to give people who use drugs support through access to treatment services, counselling, psycho-socio support and also ensuring harm reduction,” he said.
Mupembe also spoke on how drug users are spreading HIV through the use of the same needles and called on authorities to reform some of the drug laws.
Derker also said that they are not supporting the use of drugs but only trying to find measures to reduce the spread of diseases by drug users.
“We are not supporting the use of drugs, but we are trying to find measures to reduce the spread of diseases by drug uses for example when people are given condoms, they are not saying that people must sleep together but are trying to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted disease,” she said.
Derker said SSDP was not in Zimbabwe only, but a global network of students and youths that is supported by organisations such as the International Drug Policy Commission.