Pubdate: Mon, 12 Jun 2000
Source: Illawarra Mercury (Australia)
Copyright: 2000 Illawarra Newspapers


The threat of an AIDS epidemic spurred Tahmoor man Peter Webeck into
action 15 years ago.

He was disturbed by statistics that showed one in 200 injecting heroin
addicts had been infected by the HIV virus.

"The politicians were saying that if we didn't do something, that
figure might rise to 60 per cent," Mr Webeck said yesterday.

It was at that moment that the idea for the NSW Needle and Syringe
Exchange program was born. Mr Webeck was instrumental in convincing
pharmacists to take part in the program designed to stop the spread of
AIDS among intravenous drug users.

"First of all we needed to get the laws changed so pharmacists
couldn't be thrown in jail for supplying needles," he said.

"Some of them said they didn't want to aid and abet heroin users and
other were happy about promoting safety measures."

Eventually, chemists agreed and governments developed safety packs for
handling needles.

"We managed to stabilise the increase of AIDS among drug addicts," Mr
Webeck said.

It was just one of numerous worthwhile causes he has supported in the
past 30 years.

"There are so many important things to work towards and it's so
exciting," Mr Webeck said after learning he had been named a Member in
the Order of Australia (AM).

"There are always great reasons to push politicians into getting
something done. Life is really exciting," he said.
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