A range of police members from all regions of the Kyrgyz Republic were awarded with a medal “For valuable input to HIV prevention in the Kyrgyz Republic”
14 police officers from various parts of the Republic recently received this inaugural medal at the Headquarters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Kyrgyzstan. The Award was developed, designed and produced by the HIV-related organizations of Kyrgyzstan and awarded to police who had demonstrated a significant commitment to harm reduction and police/health partnerships in the region.
HIV Prevention in Kyrgyzstan – by Alex
The partnership between law enforcement and public health started in the late 1990s, when the first cases of AIDS/HIV were revealed. The evidence told us that HIV rates were increasing due to in injecting drug use. Hence the decision was made to develop a harm reduction strategy aimed at injecting drug users.
A key role here was played by police. On the one hand, it was necessary to put the safety of the police officers first in order to prevent needle-stick injuries and infection. On the other hand, it was necessary to teach them tolerance and empathy for those affected by drug addiction. The police soon realised that if the drug users went underground in order to avoid criminal prosecution and stopped using harm reduction services, they would continue to spread the disease.
Many changes have taken place over the past 15 years, including the introduction of legislative reform, development of harm reduction training materials and operational guidelines. There are many examples today of diversion and referral pathways, where the district police officer or patrolman brings the drug user to the doctor, to the rehabilitation center or to the outreach worker instead of prison.
Congratulations to Alex (who is now a retired police colonel but still a very active supporter of HIV prevention) and your colleagues for your untiring work in this challenging field. Alex ranks this medal as one of his most important, between the Kyrgyz “Erkindik” (“For Courage”) and UN medals “Service For the Peace”, received in Kosovo.