The Equality Rights Group and rehabilitation group ‘Stay Clean’ launched the first stages of their joint ‘Connected Health’ public campaign last month.

This followed a 24-page report putting forward proposals for managing the issues of substance abuse and sexual health in the community earlier in the year.

A spokesman for the campaign said that the Gibraltar Government needs to introduce an ongoing system of regulation of these substances that is based on scientific evidence.

“Drugs have been a curse and a gift. A curse to those affected, and a gift to organised crime who, without a system of regulation, have thrived and profited for too long,” said Felix Alvarez from the ERG. “We need a system that takes the control away from the Mafias and puts it into the hands of caring professionals.”

The spokesman said that the system must differentiate between stronger and more harmful substances and those no greater than social drugs such as alcohol, tea or coffee.

“Tobacco smoking is down considerably in the last decade – and that was achieved without criminalisation or prison sentences. It is public awareness and a range of regulatory measures which makes the real difference, and which leads to success,” the spokesman said.

Joined by the team from the Mr. Gibraltar pageant, the campaigners collected funds for Stay Clean’s ‘Drop-In Centre’ and services. They also informed the public on why Gibraltar could do with a positive Clinic to assist people with both addiction and sexual health issues.

“Overcoming stigma and fear are the main objectives,” said Damian Broton, head of Stay Clean. “We want to make sure there is good coordination all around the system at a clinical level, and to make clear that sexual health and substance abuse can and sometimes do go together.”