Pubdate: Thu, 28 Oct 2004
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 The Edmonton Journal
Author: CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


OTTAWA - A report is calling for needle exchange programs to be
implemented in Canadian prisons and jails within 18 months to help
stem the growing number of HIV and hepatitis C cases among inmates.

The report by the Canadian HIV-AIDS Legal Network cited evidence from
six countries, including Switzerland and Germany, where prison needle
exchange programs are already in effect, to show how the programs
don't endanger prison staff or increase drug use by inmates.

"Outside prison, needle exchange programs have been operating with
government funding throughout Canada since the late 1980s," Ralf
Jurgens, the network's executive director, said in a statement.

"They are generally regarded as the single most important factor in
preventing HIV epidemics among injection drug users. Today, there are
no longer any good reasons to deny prisoners who inject drugs access
to clean needles."

One in 50 federal inmates is HIV-positive and rates in provincial
jails are very high, Jurgens said. The number of known HIV/AIDS cases
in federal prisons in 1989 was 14. That number grew to 251 by 2002.

Hepatitis C figures are just as troubling.

While only 0.8 per cent of Canadians have the disease, rates among
prisoners are between 20 and 80 per cent, he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake