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We Can't End AIDS Until We End the Drug War

The end of AIDS is not just possible -- but predictably achievable -- if we end the war on drugs.

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Few countries are as backward in this area as Russia (where the epidemic is largely driven by people who inject drugs) and where the number of infected individuals has more than quadrupled since 2000. In Russia, more than one in 100 adults are infected HIV. Medications that could effectively treat heroin addiction are illegal in that country and, so far, its government has reneged on promises to fund syringe exchange programs.

Too many countries in the world have let their repressive and punitive drug policies get in the way of the public's health. Ours is one of them. Facilities where people who inject drugs can do so under medical supervision now operate legally in 61 cities around the world. These facilities have been proven to reduce the health and societal problems associated with injection drug use, including HIV transmission. None, however, exist as yet in the United States.

The current situation has quite literally resulted from a life-or-death decision made by politicians. The spread of HIV will not be stopped as long as drug use remains criminalized and as long as people who inject drugs are given up for lost.

Ethan Nadelmann is founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance . Mathilde Krim is founding chair of amfAR and a member of the board of the Drug Policy Alliance .