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HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Elton John Advocates Harm Reduction

He appeals for tolerance for injecting drug users, rather than policies that "show no forgiveness."

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By Victoria Kim

06/07/13

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Elton John says "stigma and criminalization" surrounding drug use has led to an increase in addiction and disease. The iconic singer advocates "compassion" for drug users and says treatment and harm reduction-based solutions—such as needle exchanges, opiate substitution therapy and "sound advice"—can help reduce the risk of overdose and HIV. "In the 1980s and 1990s, we saw HIV cut down hundreds of thousands of people while governments did nothing," the British rocker tells AFP. "It was clear then, and is still clear, that many governments don't value the lives of their own citizens because of needless stigma and criminalisation of drugs and sex." John says the US is a good example of how, despite resistance on the federal level, reform was possible. Although "conservative politicians have banned the use of national government funding for syringe exchange," state and city governments are reforming their policies to promote harm reduction, such as reducing restrictions on pharmacy sales of syringes and allowing people to legally carry them. His Elton John AIDS Foundation spent about $1 million a year on harm reduction in the US, mainly for syringe access. The foundation is a sponsor for the upcoming International Harm Reduction Conference, which will gather hundreds of scientists, politicians, researchers, doctors, and activists from about 70 countries in Vilnius, Lithuania on Sunday.  

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