Pubdate: Fri, 31 May 2002
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: James Wood


The needle-exchange program that sparked controversy and discussion has 
been up and running for about two weeks with few problems and few clients, 
says one of its main organizers.

"We haven't been real busy. It's been slow at the start. I think some 
people are waiting for the controversy to slow down a bit," Richard 
Gregory, president of the HIV/AIDS Network of Southern Alberta, said Thursday.

The HIV/AIDS Network is running the program Thursday afternoons and 
evenings out of its office at 550c Allowance Ave. S.E. in the Flats. Boylan 
Pharmacies in the city are also distributing the needle kits, information 
and disposal program, said Gregory.

Getting rid of used needles is seen as a key step in stopping the spread of 
diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C through sharing needles.

While the program is aimed at steroid and intravenous drug users, Gregory 
said legal users of needles, such as diabetics, are welcome to get needles 
at the exchange.

While some neighbours and other Hatters raised concerns about the exchange, 
Gregory said he has only received one negative phone call.

"Most of the people I've talked to in the community are pretty much of the 
'wait-and-see' kind," he said.
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