Pubdate: Tue, 14 Sep 2004
Source: Red Deer Advocate (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 Red Deer Advocate
Author: Susan Zielinski
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Red Deer's two community needle drop boxes pulled in 577 used syringes
in their first 14 weeks.

"Certainly we're seeing it as a success. Five hundred and
seventy-seven needles is a huge success," said Jennifer
Vanderschaeghe, executive director of Central Alberta AIDS Network
Society (CAANS).

Monthly statistics show the box in an alley near the Arlington Hotel
took in 365 needles, most of them in May and August. The needle box at
Rotary Recreational Park near the Golden Circle collected 212, with
204 dropped off in August.

"It's going to peak and valley significantly," said Vanderschaeghe who
suspected the needles at Rotary Park may have come from one person
getting rid of a collection of needles.

Since the one-year pilot project began in May, another neighbourhood
has looked at getting a box.

Vanderschaeghe said the positive interest is a good sign for the
project, but it will take time to expand.

Grande Prairie's HIV North Society will soon set up its eighth drop
box and has collected 640 needles since July 2002.

Brenda Moore, executive director of HIV North, said boxes have gone up
in several locations.

Those locations include the parking lots of a mall and a grocery
store, at the local Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission office,
on city property, and on the business property of concerned citizens.

Moore said people using drugs on the street make use of the boxes more
than those who have a place to go to inject drugs. So it's likely more
transient or homeless people using them.

Drop boxes don't reduce the use of syringes, but they also don't
increase syringe use either. They help to eliminate both needle-stick
injuries and promote safety awareness, she added.

Red Deer drop boxes are part of CAANS's needle exchange program.
Needles are distributed and collected at the CAANS office, Hilltop
Pharmacy, and the Helping Hands Mobile Van.

CAANS hands out an average of 6,390 needles monthly to reduce the
spread of diseases like hepatitis C, HIV and AIDS through needle sharing.

When Red Deer had a population of about 72,000, CAANS handed out
83,368 between April 2002 and March 2003. By comparison, Grande
Prairie, with a population of about 40,000, saw 22,729 needles handed
out during the same period.

Vanderschaeghe said the number of needles distributed in Red Deer
dropped after the local methadone clinic opened in November 2002. But
the rate is now climbing.

"We're seeing an increase in our injection drug users. We're inching
our way back up."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek