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News State / Region New report highlights N.C. human rights abuses

A new publication released by Human Rights Watch, “We Know What To Do: Harm Reduction and Human Rights in North Carolina” highlights human rights abuses in North Carolina. Cited abuses include the criminalization of syringes and other equipment proven to curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, failure to enact “Good Samaritan” laws that protect those who seek help for an overdose victim, and inadequate access to affordable drug treatment and harm reduction information for people who are using drugs. Human Rights Watch also documented the testimony of women reluctant to carry multiple condoms for fear that they will be used as evidence of prostitution.

Human Rights Watch reports that “The South is at the heart of the HIV epidemic in the United States, with more people living with HIV and dying of AIDS than in any region in the country. The South has the highest rates of new infections, the most AIDS deaths, and the largest numbers of adults and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS.[1]” Human Rights Watch attributes the disproportionate number of HIV cases in the South to policies such as “criminalization of HIV exposure, the failure to support HIV programs, abstinence-based sex education, prison policies, and lack of harm reduction programs that deny life-saving information and sponsor stigma and discrimination against those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.[2]”

The report advocates for sterile syringe programs to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis. Despite global documentation and widespread consensus from the U.S. National AIDS Strategy to the World Health Organization that access to sterile syringes is an effective way to prevent HIV transmission, North Carolina continues to arrest and prosecute its people for syringe possession. Human Rights Watch reports, “Sterile syringe programs have proven for decades to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among injection drug users and contributed to the 80 percent drop in HIV transmission from injection drug use since the beginning of the epidemic in the United States.[3] A New York study showed that HIV prevalence fell from 54 to 13 percent among injection drug users after introduction of syringe distribution programs.[4]” Additionally, sterile syringe programs are found to reduce the incidence of needle-sticks to law enforcement officers by 66%. Currently in North Carolina, 1 in 3 officers can expect to be pricked by a needle potentially contaminated with HIV or hepatitis C while conducting searches. Twenty-eight percent of officers will receive multiple needle-sticks. [5]

The Human Rights Watch report recommends that North Carolina implement harm reduction programs aimed at curbing the incidence of HIV, hepatitis C, and drug overdose through programs such as sterile syringe access, peer education, and the repeal of laws that marginalize and criminalize those affected by HIV and hepatitis C such as HB 601 in the NC legislature to decriminalize syringes.

For a copy of the report, contact Robert Childs at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Sources

[1] CDC, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 2007; for comprehensive discussions of disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on minorities in the South.

[2] Human Rights Watch, “Southern Exposure: Human Rights and HIV in the South,” November 2010.

[3] Hall, H. Irene, Song, R., Rhodes, P. et al. “Estimation of HIV Incidence in the United States,” JAMA, vol. 300, no.5, p. 526.

[4] Jarlais D., et al. “Reductions in hepatitis C virus and HIV infections among injecting drug users in New York City, 1990- 2001,” AIDS, vol. 19, no. 3, 2005.

[5] Lorentz, J., Hill, J. & Samini, B. “Occupational needle stick injuries in a metropolitan police force,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 18, 2000, p. 146–150.





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