How has the War on Drugs affected the HIV Rate of individuals in the Criminal Justice System?
War on Drugs is used in the United States to refer to a rigorous campaign as well as military assistance to reduce illegal drug trade. The initiative was picked by President Richard Nixon to refer to his anti-drug policy. Later on, the media picked it and made it considerably popular in the United States. In this initiative, the United States works with its strategic allies in various parts of the country in a bid to stem out drug trafficking. It is designed to prevent widespread use of psychoactive drugs in the United States because of its adverse effects on people as well as on the economy. The assistance is usually in terms of military presence to prevent traffickers from smoothly operating at border points in transporting their illegal commodities. The idea became popular because the extent of drug trafficking in the United States, especially from its neighbors from South was alarming. Indeed, the trend was beginning to cause insecurity in the country and providing a safe haven for immigrants to enter the country on pretense of trade. The illegal trade in narcotics was said to promote the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country. The step taken by President Nixon, as a matter of fact, was seen as timely and the only way to restore security and order in US bilateral trade with its neighbors (Kasia & Sarah 2004). This paper accesses the impact that War on Drugs has had on the spread of HIV/AIDS. It also looks at other options that should be integrated in order to realize benefits in terms of the spread of the disease.
War on Drugs a Failed Initiative
There have been claims that War on Drugs has led to the spread instead of eradicating the disease. They argue that the idea was only a cosmetic approach and that the United States government was, in fact, not committed to ending the trade. In a detailed report, Commission of International Leader maintains that the initiative has caused a significant surge in cases of irresponsible sex by denying them access to safe health practices. They particularly note the repressive nature of the law as currently constituted as the major driver of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country. The leaders’ forum calls for reform of the drug policy to make it more effective and beneficial to the populace by removing the causes that essentially cause criminalization. According to statistics, about 33 million people are currently living with the disease and this is attributable to the use of narcotics. In sub-Saharan Africa, heroin and methamphetamine have been said to account for a third of new HIV infections. This should not be happening when the United States government has rolled out massive resources to finish the pandemic in the world, including immense military presence in Afghanistan that is believed to be the nerve centre of illegal drug trade. Indeed, it is a high time the United States conceded failure in this regard to give the world the opportunity to look for working alternatives. For example, the law as currently constituted prevents people from possessing clean needles, making a it a bit impractical and therefore a potential failure. According to statistics on global trade, the supply of opiate drugs has increased by over 400% in the United States during the past 30 years. In addition, the price has continued to skyrocket, implying that the drug is still a valuable product in the world. Notably, much of the production of the opiate drug is happening under the watch of the military presence of the United States in Afghanistan (Richard 2008). There is no doubt that the drug policy is a flop. However, the failure arises from the fact that the government did not consult enough, and rushed into implementing a policy that obviously looks unrealistic. There is no way the same law that is applied to drug traffickers can be applied to drug abusers in equal measure. Indeed, it should take care of the fact that abusers are only victims of circumstances and that by making the drug unavailable, they will obviously stop using it. This should have been the approach form the beginning (Irving 1988).
The drug policy has failed because it essentially tries to criminalize a health disaster thereby hindering people from seeking medical aid. For example, illegal drug traffickers who are locked up in prisons are said to live promiscuous and careless lifestyles in prisons. They force their inmates who are not infected with HIV/AID to engage in sexual intercourse with them, causing them to get infection. This is because they feel that the society has abandoned them and that there is no hope left form them outside the prison. It particularly disturbs when the government that should have sought to help them insist that they should remain behind bars for their engagement in illegal trade. They forget that these drugs are addictive and even an angel would be hoodwinked into their consumption. According to them, the government should change its priorities and focus on helping the stop using the drugs instead of locking them up as criminals. This is why the policy has fueled drug abuse instead of stop it. It should be noted that the pursuit of drug users by the police effectively drives them from the society and prevents them from openly seeking health services in the public institutions. It basically drives them underground where they engage in all manner of promiscuous lifestyles. Eventually, they end up sharing needles to inject the drugs as they cannot obtain clean needles from government institutions for fear of being arrested. According to literature, the police have the uncouth behavior of confiscating clean syringes found in their possession and harassing the suspects. In some instances, arrests by the police rudely interrupt their antiretroviral therapy. This effectively raises their viral load and worsens their immune function, making it easier for them to spread the disease. Certainly, the approach should be changed as the current one is not only repressive, but also impractical. As a result of the flawed drug policy, the United States has recorded high rates of HIV infection among prisoners as well as Black Americans as the policy denies infected people a chance to seek medical services while at the same time giving them the opportunity to infect fellow inmates. This is an unfortunate trend that should be reversed as soon as possible in order to restore credibility of the American leadership. There is no way the government can spend lot of public funds pretending to wage war on drugs when the opposite seems to be happening (Alex 2010).
Public education remains a viable option in the control of HIV/AIDS and promoting responsible lifestyles among infected individuals. This will work better that trying to criminalize the use of drugs and using unorthodox means arrest people with HIV infections. According to literature, the best way to help a society is by showing them how to help themselves. Although providing solutions can work for some time, it gets to a point where people become tired of blindly following the law. Thus, they revert to their old ways thereby finding themselves in a greater danger. This is exactly what happened to the drug policy because the government set out to implement an idea that people were not fully briefed about. In addition, it was implemented in a manner that was not people friendly because it involved denying people certain personal privileges like association. it is unimaginable that one would be arrested merely for possessing a needle. This was draconian and completely unacceptable in the modern society. Indeed, it should have been foreseen that the public will eventually resist the move given that it was not easy to comply with it. That is why the public initially became compliant but soon changed tact when they realized that the policy did not appear to respect their individual rights and was essentially introducing social intolerance. The government did not seriously take into consideration that narcotics cause addiction and that once an abuser, it should not be considered one’s false to continue using the drug. The concept of addiction is such that drug users literally crave for their drugs of abuse after only a few hours of withdrawal (Chris, Mikki & Virginia 2001). In fact, it gets to a point when they get sick, feeling headache and chills, due to the effects of the withdrawal effects. It is not realistic to expect such people to change so drastically if you deny them the means to seek medical assistance with their withdrawal effort. Instead of the government focusing on the criminal aspect of drug abuse, it should have looked at the medical accept as thus would have made the policy more reasonable and implementable in a modern society.
Focus on Drug Traffickers
The policy as bound to fail given that the policy put too much attention on abusers instead of the producers of the drug. It should be expected that once in the market, there will always be people who are willing to consume the drug. Thus, the only realistic way of stopping the usage of the drug would be stop its production altogether. However, with reports of increased rate of production in Afghanistan by about 400% only imply the opposite. It is possible that there was a section of the government that benefited from the trade or they were jut relaxed on its implementation. This is because the military presence of the United States in Afghanistan was too much that they would have stopped the production of the drug if they wished to. The fact that they could thwart the effort of the Al Qaeda related groups only prove this. However, it appears that the country was not committed to ending the vice from the beginning and that the policy was just a cosmetic move to show that the government cared about the effects of drugs on its people. Indeed, the actual implementation was itself hasty as they did not seek the advice of medical professionals about the pharmacological nature of the drugs (Joni, Phillip & Gary 1995). It portrays of a government that was in a hurry to implement a policy such that consultation with stakeholders was deemed unnecessary. This should not have happened, especially if the government claims that it truly cares about the welfare of its people. The policy did not factor in any provisions of rehabilitation, but rather put stiff punitive measures on possession of needles. This was essentially trying to trivialize and criminalize a matter of immense public concern to the extent of harming the very public. Essentially, such punitive measure should have been put on drug producers who lured people into consuming the drug by making it available. As for the addicts, effort should have been made to cure them of their addiction as well as help them manage the withdrawal effects of the drugs.
The government should also evaluate the cost of implementing the policy in relation to the benefits accruing from its implementation. It is quite clear that lots of money is being used to provide military aid to governments that are perhaps funded by the drug lords. This implies that they can never be in a position to implement the effective measures since they only intend to protect the traffickers. Instead of offering blind funding or military support to governments, the United States should first assess the commitment to the war against drugs. For instance, there are countries where drug traffickers sponsor political parties, implying that people in power are by all means there to take care of their interest. In this regard, it becomes completely hypocritical for one to claim that they are supporting such governments to stem out illegal drug trade. It essentially means providing military support to protect traffickers as they transport the drug across their boundaries to the international market (Trevor & Katy 2005). This is what it means to have the rate of drug consuming rising in the United States when it is actually expected to go down. Indeed, this is what it means when the rate of production is increasing by 400% percent at a time when it was expected to have one down. It is evident that the intervention by the United States to wage war on drugs was a policy flop that should be corrected through legislation if indeed the government remains committed to eradicating HIV/AIDS. If this is not done promptly, it will only provide fodder to the theories of corrupt deals in the military that involve silently supporting crime for their own financial gain. Indeed, something drastic has to be done to restore public confidence in the war on drugs (George Washington University, Intergovernmental Health Policy Project 1987).
The best option is for the government to involve all stakeholders in drawing a proper policy instead of kneejerk plans. This should involve the civil society, medical professionals, and the clergy as well different cadres of administrators. The group should come up with a policy that will address the root cause of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the United States. This should take note of the fact that the use of needles only accounts for less than 10% infections in the United States or in the world in general. Instead of prohibiting the use of needles, the policy should seek to promote their hygienic use where necessary. The policy should not be one that drives people underground where they engage in all manner of promiscuous lifestyles. Eventually, they end up sharing needles to inject the drugs as they cannot obtain clean needles from government institutions for fear of being arrested (Mark 1996). According to literature, the police have the uncouth behavior of confiscating clean syringes found in their possession and harassing the suspects. In some instances, arrests by the police rudely interrupt their antiretroviral therapy. Indeed, it would make proper sense if the government provided them with needles so that people would not need to share at the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. This will make a perfectly people-oriented approach that can be of significance to the people. Indeed, drug abusers will feel part of the efforts and appreciate that the government’s efforts need to be augmented for the common good. As such, they will see the sense in cooperating with the law enforcement agents.
The most important approach will be to use medical personnel to implement it, instead of using the police. While the police may be needed to comprehend those taking part in the trade, drug abusers are sick people who should be left at the mercy of doctors and pharmacists. This is because the drugs they use are so addictive that one cannot just stop using them so simply. They also have withdrawal effects that need to be treated so that abusers are not forced to continue using the drugs to feel better. In addition, public education should be given a lot of emphasis in the actual implementation. For instance, people should be told that they risk getting infected with several diseases if they shared needles. This will be in acknowledgement that the government cannot be present everywhere to ensure that no one uses the drugs. While it put in place mechanisms to ensure that supply of the drug was brought to a naught, this will certainly take time to achieve. Therefore, encouraging people to avoid using same needles will be more beneficial than waiting for them to use in order to arrest them. This will be a better approach to eradicating the spread of HIV infections in the country. In addition, the government should seal its borders so that trafficking of drugs is made impossible. This should be augmented by effort to pursue producers of the drugs through their international allies (Donald 2001). However, only allies that can be trusted should be given any monetary or military assistance to fight drug lords. It should also ensure that no section of the government is benefiting from the trade or relaxed on its implementation. This is because the military presence of the United States in Afghanistan was too much that they would have stopped the production of the drug if they wished to. The fact that they could thwart the effort of the Al Qaeda related groups only prove this. However, it appears that the country was not committed to ending the vice from the beginning and that the policy was just a cosmetic move to show that the government cared about the effects of drugs on its people.
In conclusion, war on drugs was started to eradicate illegal trade in narcotics that was said to promote the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country. The step taken by President Nixon, as a matter of fact, was seen as timely and the only way to restore security and order in US bilateral trade with its neighbors. However, there have been claims that War on Drugs has led to the spread instead of eradicating the disease. They argue that the idea was only a cosmetic approach and that the United States government was, in fact, not committed to ending the trade. In a detailed report, Commission of International Leader maintains that the initiative has caused a significant surge in cases of irresponsible sex by denying them access to safe health practices. The drug policy has failed because it essentially tries to criminalize a health disaster thereby hindering people from seeking medical aid. For example, illegal drug traffickers who are locked up in prisons are said to live promiscuous and careless lifestyles in prisons. They force their inmates who are not infected with HIV/AID to engage in sexual intercourse with them, causing them to get infection. This makes it quite evident that public education, together with focusing on the root cause of the vice would save the government a lot of money they use in apprehending drug users as well as trafficker. It is wasted in the sense that they resume normal business as soon as they are released because the approach does not consider their addiction to the drug as well as the fact that they are certainly going to suffer if the drug is drastically withdrawn. A people based approach will work best in eradicating the use of drugs.