IDLO and partners hosted the Second Regional Consultation on Law Enforcement and the HIV Response in Beirut this week. The consultation was attended by representatives from law enforcement agencies and civil society organizations from seven countries in the region: Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Sudan. The meeting was co-hosted by the Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association (MENAHRA), the Law Enforcement and HIV Network (LEAHN), the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The aim of the consultation was to review the evidence of the value to both police and the community of harm reduction policing, review the actual and potential role of police as partners in the HIV response in the MENA region, and to make recommendations for strengthening the police role as partners in the HIV response in the MENA region.
In his opening remarks, the MENAHRA Executive Director, Elie Aaraj, stated that we have an obligation to help people who use drugs and not stigmatize them, marginalize them, or discriminate against them.
IDLO’s Senior Legal Expert for Health, David Patterson, noted that the role of the state in public health is well-recognized – this includes the role of police in the national response to HIV in every country.
Speaking for UNAIDS, Rupa Bhadra noted that the MENA region has taken gradual steps towards recognizing and adopting a human rights approach to HIV.
The Director of LEAHN, Prof Nick Crofts, presented the concept of ‘harm reduction policing’ and the work of LEAHN in other regions. He invited police at the consultation to join the network and become peer educators in the HIV response.
Police representatives at the consultation agreed that strengthening the relationship between civil society organizations and police is key to any HIV response. They suggested that future HIV programming should be designed for both civil society organizations and police. They noted that the stigma faced by people living with HIV and key populations could be addressed by working hand in hand with police.
The Consultation was held just prior to MENAHRA’s 3rd Regional Conference on Harm Reduction, which is also co-sponsored by IDLO.