'Spreading the light of science and the warmth of human sympathy'. These were the words used in Paris in 1919 by the founders of the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Under this slogan, the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which I have been involved with since the age of eight, has always directed its action in favour of vulnerable people particularly in the most obscure corners of our society, where drug users are often forced to live.
'Spreading the light of science' is now the title of the 2003 report of the Red Cross on HIV/AIDS and Harm Reduction, which ensures that a wide range of programmes are implemented throughout the world.
This report is a call made to the international community not to attach moral strings to public health practices aimed at drug victims, and you can find a copy of it in the web site of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
We all know very well that use and abuse of substances is such a complex problem, that can not be faced, not to say solved, by only referring to scientific evidence.
It implies ethical and scientific backgrounds, political, cultural, traditional and economic scenarios, from needs to care, from freedom to power and the law, desires, fears and pleasure, and strong is the irrationality influencing it.
It is the irrationality of drug users, who know that they are damaging themselves, and that the price to pay is higher than benefits; who know that drugs produce displeasures and dissatisfactions, and that those displeasures and dissatisfactions will soon and inexorably prevail and overwhelm the pleasure coming from drugs.
But it is also the irrationality of policies that are based on people's fears, more than on the control and regulation of a phenomenon that is as old as the world, and that the world itself will always have to live with.
Use and abuse of substances express the human inner desire to modify his consciousness, to look for pleasure and to escape from pain while relieving his suffering, either physical and psychical, researching for the pill of happiness to win diseases, pain until death.
After 30 years of experience in the field of drug addiction, and after having met more than thirty thousands IVDUs, I still do not know if it is the individual or the substance to be more important to create a drug user.
And I think that it is due to this heterogeneous dynamic reality that politicians find it so difficult to take decisions on drug issues.
Many times it is strong the temptation to obtain personal advantages through demagogical behaviours - aiming at impress the public opinion - rather than through pragmatic ones - aiming at contain the dangerous effects of this phenomenon.
You have been elected by European citizens to manage the European construction process, and for this reason you have a great responsibility. But today, you also have a great opportunity, the opportunity to address drug policies in an effective, balanced ,concrete and pragmatic way.
What I am praying you to do, in the name of the most vulnerable ones, in the name of those who will experience on themselves the effects of your decisions, and who could even die as a consequence of a wrong decision, what I am praying you to do, here, is not to use the theme of drug dependency as a cause of political fight between opposite coalitions.
Drug users' existence, specially if they are IVDUs, is always pending between life and death. Everyday, at every shot, their existence crosses the death to survive.
Anti-drug policies can not aim at increasing the harm caused by substances in order to convince drug users to quit. Anti-drug policies have to reduce the harm, in order to avoid the "point of no return" and permit a slow process of rehabilitation.
Cemeteries are full of people who quit thanks to the sometimes fanatic and intrinsically violent action of behaviourist therapeutic institutions, and who finally died of diseases taken due to the difficult living conditions to which they have been forced.
Harm increase is the opposite of harm reduction, and no health policy might want a patient's living conditions to worsen. Harm increase in a single drug addict has a cascade effect on the entire community, and this because drug users are not an epidemiologically closed community.
An HIV or HCV positive drug user can transmit the virus not only to other drug users, but to any person he has unprotected sexual relations with.
What is now happening in Eastern Europe, and mainly in Russia and Ukraine, where 60% of drug users are HIV positive, can not leave the European Parliament indifferent.
It is not conceivable that public health measures that are worldwide known as inexpensive and effective in reducing virus transmission and in increasing drug users' health conditions - such as substitutive therapies - are deprived of a legal basis.
Needle exchange or low-threshold centers are deprived of a legal basis. In order to reduce individual and social harms of drugs consumption, it is interest of any State not only to take care of those who want to quit, but also to contact, to know and to take care of all drug users from a given territory.
An anti-drug centre waiting for requests of assistance by drug users is only able to assist a limited number of persons, those who can bear the frustration of asking for help. We have to improve living conditions of those who are so sick not to even imagine a life without drugs.
If a well known drug addict is a problem, an unknown drug addict is twice a problem. It is for this reason that we need courageous strategies, that are able to reach drug users in the streets and everywhere their daily tragedy is consumed.
Since its foundation in 1864, the Red Cross has rigorously followed its core Principle of Neutrality, working and advocating in favour of the most vulnerable ones, regardless of racial, ideological, religious or political divides. Everywhere and in the name of the power of humanity.
And it is in the very name of this power that I am addressing you today. In many places of the World, stigma and discrimination towards drug users and violent drug policies do more harm to people than drugs themselves.
Europe has to give the example that a more human treatment of drug users is possible, desirable and necessary, not only for the benefit of drug victims, but also for the benefit of the entire community.