Pubdate: Tue, 09 Mar 2004
Source: Standard, The (St. Catharines, CN ON)
Copyright: 2004, The Standard
Author: Kalvin Reid
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Local News - Budget restraints that reduce the number of needles available 
for Niagara's needle exchange program will cause a rise in new cases of 
HIV/AIDS, warns AIDS Niagara.

Niagara Region's funding commitment to the organization's StreetWorks 
needle exchange program is falling short of expectations, meaning AIDS 
Niagara will cut back by about half the number of needles it distributes on 
the street.

"Studies have demonstrated the strong impact that needle exchange has on 
reducing/preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS," AIDS Niagara chairman Chris 
Rogers-Watson wrote in a letter to regional council's public health 
committee chairman Bruce Timms. "With the needle exchange only able to 
operate for half a month, a rise in new infections among the service user 
population in Niagara is an all-too-real probability."

StreetWorks, a program of AIDS Niagara providing clean syringes to drug 
users in an effort to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, has 
seen demand for its service increase and had hoped for a $35,000 funding 
hike from the Region this year, but under the pressure of a mounting tax 
increase, regional council's budget review committee has cut the amount to 

The increase pushes the Region's commitment to StreetWorks to nearly 
$140,000, which is matched by the province.

"The committee is comfortable with the budget decision we've made," Timms, 
a St. Catharines regional councillor, said Monday during a committee 
meeting at the health department's Niagara Falls office.

AIDS Niagara has run into a deficit situation in each of the past two 
years, which has been covered by the Region and cost taxpayers roughly 
$27,000, but hopes to avoid similar situations in the future.

Rogers-Watson said AIDS Niagara has directed that StreetWorks will not 
purchase supplies beyond the funding by the Region, which means the needle 
exchange will operate for a little more than two weeks a month.

"At stake, both ethically and morally, are the lives of several citizens 
throughout the Niagara region," Rogers-Watson wrote. "The decision to delay 
or not approve an increase in the StreetWorks budget is, like it or not, 
both an ethical and moral one."

Health department staff hope to have more regular meetings with AIDS 
Niagara to maximize the allocation of dollars.

"We feel a $25,000 increase is sufficient to meet their increased demand 
for supplies," said Marilyn St. John, the health department 's director of 
clinical services.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom