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Updated On: Saturday, 20 January 2018
Development Issues

Première Ligne in Geneva showcases safe injection centre to UNAIDS Board members

Content by: UN Program on HIV/AIDS

Sitting across from the bustling main Geneva train station, the lime-green block structure called Quai 9 stands out. The building houses a supervised drug injection centre run by the non-governmental organisation, Première Ligne.

Quai 9 (track 9 in English) also provides primary health care services as part of its harm reduction drop-in centre to people who use drugs.

On the occasion of UNAIDS 41st meeting mid-December of the Programme Coordinating Board, the Switzerland government organized a visit for UNAIDS board members.

The visit highlighted how addressing the needs of injecting drug users through a public health and human rights-based approach, considerably reduces the risks of HIV infection and links people to health care.

The Swiss Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Valentin Zellweger recalled how in the 1980s and 1990s, Switzerland had one of the highest incidence of HIV in Europe among people who inject drugs. In response to the crisis, Switzerland, introduced a “four pillars” policy, which focused on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement.

One of the outcomes was setting up drug injection centres and increasing collaboration between the police and health care clinics.

As a result, HIV infections among people who inject drugs in Switzerland dropped precipitously.

Earlier in the week, Ms Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland, Health minister and current chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, had addressed UNAIDS board members. Ms Dreifuss, who spearheaded the four pillars policy during her tenure, said the evidence that harm reduction and decriminalization of drug use spoke for itself. She urged member states to leave no one behind by ensuring that drug use is treated as a public health issue. That call was further emphasized by members of the NGO delegation.

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Luiz Loures commended Switzerland for its innovative, multi-sectoral approach to harm reduction. He said that UNAIDS would continue advocating for evidence-informed, human-rights based AIDS responses such as Quai 9.

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