Monday, 22 June 2015

Stigmatising ice users isn't a solution

Have we learned nothing from that dreadful 1987 add on the telly here about AIDS?

That add was a huge cause of the stigmatisation of the HIV disease here and remains so to this day. For some in Australia (and NZ I reckon by my brothers assertion of being threaten with spit) that add has been the limit of their understanding and education about HIV. Today in Australia many people still refer to HIV as "AIDS" FFS. The police prosecutor last week in court didn't know the difference between HIV and AIDS. Shocking ignorance.

Now the Abbott gov has come out with another dreadful add in the same vein. No it's not as bad as the grim reaper, but seriously, anyone who's taken ice knows that the cases depicted in this add show ignorance and a big scare tactic that is largely ineffective. 

What's needed is real knowledge about ice and real solutions. Adds like the above make you think that as soon as you touch ice it's all over, just like the grim reaper add before it about HIV. I still get people asking me on occasion how much longer I've got to live when they find out about my HIV. Astonishing in 2015.

Now we have an investigation into the whole Abbott claimed "ice epidemic" (I think it's a bit like their "budget emergency" thing). One submission (number 8) has called for drug testing of Centrelink clients and 10 years mandatory minimum jail sentences for people caught with over 2 grams of ice. Two grams!  

Such punishment with simply fill up the jails and do nothing to address the issues involved around taking ice. As someone who has used it quite a bit in the past I feel I have a better insight into the issue than the Abbott bloody gov.

For a start I've not myself, nor ever seen with anyone on ice, scratching themselves and drawing blood. Nor much of the other stuff on the above add. To infer that many ice users do so as in the add is to make ice users laugh at the add in derison; that it's not got a clue about where they are.

And where ice users often are is hurt and vulnerable people at the end of their tether. They often need counseling, GP referrals to specialist drug services that help and not punish. People telling them that they're worthwhile to have those services and for the community to spend money on them for that help. Not to be told they're about to scratch their arms apart.
The National Association of People with HIV Australia said surveys had recorded the prevalence of ice in LGBTI populations at around four times the rate in the heterosexual population and even higher rates in HIV positive gay men. 

“The Australian government needs to acknowledge that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed,” the submission says. “Continuing to treat drug use and abuse as a criminal matter that has an emphasis on enforcement is neglecting much needed and vitally important harm reduction, rehabilitation and support programs and initiatives.” 

It claimed only a minority of ice use was problematic and stated that government funded advertising campaigns aimed at reducing use of the drug were not helpful. The submission argued harm reduction strategies should be focused on early and brief intervention tailored to particular groups. 

“The current media campaign ‘Ice destroys lives’ sponsored by the federal Department of Health, limits itself to depict one example amongst a spectrum of use behaviour and is unhelpful in reducing stigma associated with drug use,” the submission says, arguing it was more important to let people know where they could get help than run “scare campaigns”. more