Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jun 2000
Source: Richmond Review (CN BC)
Copyright: 2000 Richmond Public Library
Contact:  Unit 140 5671 No. 3 Road, Richmond, B.C.
Fax: (604) 606-8752
Author: Chris Bryan

Local drug users to get needle exchange

Intravenous drug users may soon be able to obtain clean needles at
Richmond Hospital through an exchange provided by health services.

The exchange, proposed to open next month, will provide safe disposal
of needles and will be accompanied by a program to train city workers,
custodians and the general public to safely discard of needles.

In response to the crisis in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside,
intravenous drug use in the Vancouver-Richmond area was declared an
emergency situation by the health board in the fall of 1997.

Since that time, an exchange was set up in the Downtown Eastside,
followed by 11 others in the Vancouver area.

This is the first exchange in Richmond.

Up until now, Richmond-area IV drug users had to travel to one of
Vancouver's 12 needle exchanges to get clean needles.

"What we're doing is serving the people that are already there," said
Dr. John Blatherwick, the health board's chief public health officer.

The service is intended to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases
like HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis throughout the Lower Mainland. The
exchange will run on a one-to-one basis, meaning people will have to
bring dirty needles before they can get clean ones. Participants will
also receive containers to safely transport the needles, and condoms
and lubricant.

Along with the exchange, health services will also offer other
resources such as disease testing, medical care, counselling,
educational materials and referrals to local treatment centres.

Brian Wardley, secretary of the Heart of Richmond AIDS Society,
applauds the new needle exchange.

"I know quite a few people who have HIV and AIDS because they used
dirty needles, and I've seen the problems that created in their
lives," he said. "So anything that can help prevent that is a good

Dr. Anne Vogel, Richmond's medical health officer, said the new
exchange is highly unlikely to become a magnet for drug users from
outside Richmond.

"Richmond is a big community itself. Even getting people from Richmond
to come to the hospital is not easy. Somebody would have to be pretty
determined to come from somewhere else."

Local drug users fall into a very different profile from those seen in
places like the Downtown Eastside, she said. While they are not
strictly recreational in their drug use, they are usually
well-integrated into the community.
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