Funded by the Staying Alive Foundation since December 2009, Youth RISE focuses on advocating for harm reduction and campaigns for more humane drug policies for young people worldwide.

Their SAF funded project ‘Youth RISE Up! For HIV Prevention’ involves the development of a resource for practical use by peer educators to address harm reduction, sexual heath, and HIV prevention, and peer to peer trainings in 2 countries each year. As part of this project, Youth RISE has conducted peer to peer HIV prevention trainings with young people who use drugs in India, Romania, Mexico, Canada, Nigeria, and Lebanon.

Their latest campaign called ‘Support Don’t Punish’ has been developed to protect young people from harmful and dangerous drug policies, which Youth RISE believe undermines the health of young people.

Youth RISE member Anita Krug tells us more about their latest campaign.

‘Young people use drugs for a number of reasons. To experiment, peer pressure, to deal with daily life troubles, and to have fun.  Drug use can lead to a number of harms, including HIV and Hepatitis C, and young people are particularly vulnerable to drug related harm due to a number of factors.

Globally, drug policies are almost entirely grounded in punitive measures of criminalisation.  These policies are often defended as necessary to ‘protect young people from drugs’.  Criminalise drugs and young people will be ‘deterred’ from drug use, and ultimately a ‘drug-free society’ will emerge- so they say.  Sure, we all want the best for young people, but have these policies really worked?

As part of our latest campaign we are calling for decriminalisation of drug use and possession of drugs for personal use for the health and wellbeing of young people globally.  Let’s look at the evidence.

One of the most devastating impacts of criminalising drug use is the fuelling of the HIV epidemic worldwide.  Criminalisation marginalises people who use drugs, encouraging them to use underground in risky environments where needle sharing is common.  Treating young people who use drugs as criminals alienates them from health services that provide information and tools for HIV prevention, and other important education they need to protect themselves.  The evidence supporting the impacts of criminalisation on increased HIV transmission is overwhelming and clear. 

Young people today need to be protected from harsh drug policies that are causing far more harm to our youth then good. ‘

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