There are thousands of people who inject drugs in Sofia, many of them living in poverty on the outskirts of the town. Many of these drug users belong to marginalised groups of society, such as Roma people, with high levels of unemployment and homelessness. Many drug users inject on the streets, in risky environments with limited access to clean needles and syringes - pharmacies often refuse to serve drug users, and there is just one organisation that provides sterile equipment. Open drug use and drug litter fuels conflicts in the neighborhood, while sensationalist media coverage leads to police raids.
Bulgaria has one of the harshest drug laws in the European Union. In a country of eight million inhabitants, 800 people are imprisoned every year because of drug-related charges. Prisons are not a way of keeping people away of drugs. According to estimates by the prison authorities, more than 20 percent of the prison population are dependent on drugs – and many of them develop problematic use patterns only after being put in prison. Fear from police arrests drives drug users to use in a risky way, and discard their needles as soon as possible.
There are some worrying trends in regard to infections among drug users, with HIV transmissions increasing from 74 cases in 2004 to 157 new cases in 2012, while the hepatitis C infection-rate exceeds 70%. The cost of preventing HIV and hepatitis C is much less than the cost of treating of people who develop HIV. Sofia has no drug strategy, and the city provides no funding for prevention, treatment, or harm reduction. Please help us to urge policy-makers to listen to professional service providers and do what is really needed to reduce the harms of drug use - sign the petition here!
Our partner in the campaign from Bulgaria is the Initiative for Health Foundation. To learn more about the situation in Bulgaria, watch the movie the Drugreporter produced with the Initiative for Health Foundation.
If you support our campaign for making our cities safer, please take action and sign the petition!