In 2009, for the first time, two International Rolleston Awards were awarded, as the Awards Committee were unable to choose between two exceptional candidates - Ralf Jürgens from Canada, and Sam Friedman from the USA.
The first International Rolleston Award was presented to Ralf Jürgens – one of the leading international pioneers in the field of harm reduction, human rights and prison health. In 1998, he helped to found the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and then served for six years as its Executive Director. Since 2004, he has worked as a consultant on HIV/AIDS, health, policy and human rights in Ukraine, Russia, Tajikistan, Zambia, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Canada – for organisations such as the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, the Open Society Institute, WHO, UNODC, UNDP, UNAIDS, the International Affairs Directorate of Health Canada, and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. He is a member of the UN Global Reference Group on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights. He has authored over 100 articles on legal, ethical and human rights issues related to HIV. In 2007, he also authored a seminal review of the evidence for effective HIV prevention and harm reduction in prisons – an ‘Evidence for Action’ technical paper from the World Health Organization, UN Office on Drugs and Crime and UNAIDS entitled Effectiveness of Interventions to Address HIV in Prisons.
The second International Rolleston Award was presented to Dr. Samuel Friedman, the Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research in New York, USA. Sam has been an inspirational figure to generations of social researchers and user activists in the field of harm reduction. He has worked tirelessly for decades to promote evidence and action, and has authored over 350 publications on topics as diverse as HIV, sexually transmitted infections, drug use, epidemiology and prevention, the social research needs of the AIDS field, the impact of economic and political crises on HIV risk in Buenos Aires, women injectors, war and HIV, and drug user organisations. He is Associate Editor for Social Science of the International Journal of Drug Policy and is (or has recently been) on the editorial boards of AIDS, JAIDS, AIDScience, AIDS Education and Prevention, and the Harm Reduction Journal. He is also a published poet who often presents readings at conferences on HIV/AIDS and/or on preventing drug-related harm.
The 2009 National Rolleston Award was presented to the founder members of the Thai Drug Users’ Network (TDN) – a grassroots organisation which formed in 2002 to promote the dignity and human rights of the estimated 100,000 people who use drugs in Thailand. They were awarded $1.3 million by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2003 to continue their hard work, advocacy and peer education. They worked in one of the most hostile political settings in the world and against the backdrop of a brutal government anti-drug campaign that resulted in as many as 3,000 deaths. TDN organised peaceful protests to bring their plight to national and global attention and, in 2004, were given the ‘Award for Action on AIDS and Human Rights’ at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok. Their courageous and peaceful work has earned them the respect and praise of harm reduction advocates around the world.
The 2009 Carol and Travis Jenkins Award was presented to Holly Bradford from Korsang – a peer-led organisation which provides harm reduction and health services to people who use drugs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 2004, Holly founded the ‘Cambodian Harm Reduction Collaborative’ with three Cambodians who had been deported from the USA. Since then, this organisation has grown and become Korsang, which is now internationally renowned as an example of best practice in the field. She has helped to coordinate the organisation’s activities in an extremely difficult political environment – protecting her clients from police ‘round-ups’ and detention centres, and highlighting their plight to international policy makers, donors and the media. Korsang remains Cambodia’s only harm reduction programme, and Holly led a delegation of nearly 30 staff, peer educators and people who use drugs to the conference in Bangkok – including ‘Kormix’, a hip-hop group of Khmer drug users which played at the conference party.
In the Closing Session, the 2009 Bonnie Devlin Memorial Scholarship was presented to Dmytro Sherembey from the All Ukrainian Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS. Dmytro is a courageous advocate for the rights of people who use drugs to have access to the treatments they need – including those for HIV and tuberculosis. He helps people to overcome the structural barriers and stigma that stand between them and treatment – even confronting one doctor from Kiev on national television! Earlier in the conference, Dmytro had presented in a Major Session organised by the World Health Organization entitled ‘Collaborative TB and HIV Services for Drug Users’.
For the first time in 2009, the Paolo Pertica Fellowship was also presented. This award comprises a one year, €10,000 grant to encourage innovative harm reduction work or research in prisons, with the work to be presented at Harm Reduction 2010 in Liverpool. The 2009 Fellowship was presented to , a Research Fellow from the Japanese Foundation for AIDS Prevention, who will be conducting research on methadone maintenance treatment and needle exchange inside Iranian prisons.