Pubdate: Tue, 02 Nov 2004
Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Abbotsford Times
Author: Tricia Leslie, Times
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Needle exchange programs should be implemented in Canadian prisons
within 18 months.

That's the suggestion from the Ontario Medical Association and the Canadian
HIV/AIDS Legal Network after the release of a report by the Network
entitled Prison Needle Exchange: Lessons from a Comprehensive Review of
International Evidence and Experience.

The report states the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in prison populations
is 10 times higher than in the general population and when it comes to
hepatitis C, rates are 29 times higher in prison populations.

"Right now, the Correctional Service of Canada is reviewing [the
report] and taking it into consideration," said Michele
Pilon-Santilli, CSC national director of media relations. "There are
so many different things to take into consideration, for example, were
we to administer needle exchanges, it would have to be done
differently at institutions with different security levels."

The report says needle exchange programs have proven beneficial in
countries where NEPs exist in prison systems, such as Switzerland,
Germany, Spain, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. It concludes such programs do
not increase drug consumption or injecting but they do reduce disease
infection rates.

The report also says NEPs do not endanger prison staff or prisoner
safety and in fact, make prisons safer places to live and work.

"If there are rising rates in prisons, one has to ask 'Why,'" said
Abbotsford MP Randy White. "Drugs are illegal in prisons and are not
to be tolerated so why call for a needle exchange program? Get with
the program," said White. "I'm sick and tired of hearing how prisoners
need this and that. We should be stopping the use of any kind of
needle or drug."

Pilon-Santilli said drugs will inevitably make their way into
institutions, whether in a body cavity or a baby's diaper.

"There isn't a prison in the world that doesn't have a drug problem,"
she said, and pointed to harm reduction initiatives already in place
in Canadian prisons, such as methadone treatment, the use of bleach to
clean needles and a new, safe tattoo project that is in the process of
being implemented.

"Drugs are a reality in prisons. It would be naive to say it doesn't
go on."
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MAP posted-by: Derek