Pubdate: Fri, 30 Nov 2007
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2007 The Western Star
Author: Cliff Wells
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


CORNER BROOK  - Tree Walsh wants the needle exchange program in St. 
John's expanded to help intravenous drug users in other parts of the province.

The safe works access program and harm reduction co-ordinator for the 
AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, said the program in St. 
John's works for that community, but other communities have needs 
that wouldn't be easily met by the model used in the capital.

At a press conference unveiling the Injection Drug Use In 
Newfoundland and Labrador report at the Dunfield Park Community 
Centre, she said she doesn't know what that might look like just yet, 
but she wants to explore the possibilities with partners.

"Putting a needle exchange in Joe Batt's Arm may not work," Walsh 
said. "But having your public health nurse trained and giving him or 
her the authority to distribute clean needles to people who are using 
and accepting their used needles into the system that already exists 
is a very low-cost, simple way to begin."

She said her group wants to lower the numbers of testing positive for 
HIV and hepatitis C - bottom line.

She said the group is hoping policy makers, service providers and 
people who inject drugs will recognize it's a health issue in 
communities, and services will be put in place to reduce the barriers 
for people who use drugs to get the services they need to stay as 
healthy as possible.

"I think you work with the people in the community you're trying to 
help," she said. "They're the people who know what's best in their community.

"Of course, there's NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard - we don't want it 
around here. The reality is the problem is here. If needles are being 
found on the ground, there's a problem."

Fred Andersen, reaching injection drug users project co-ordinator, 
said a needle exchange program is not rocket science. He said either 
you have safe needle containers  in a few places, or you have needles 
strewn on the ground outside where children play.

"I think a needle exchange is vital," Andersen said. "Everything I 
say comes from what the users told me. In this community here, they 
told me they need a needle exchange program. They really need it."

Kim Dawson, chair of the AIDS Committee of Western Newfoundland, said 
it's great to have a document like this unveiled outside St. John's.

"Dunfield Park Community Centre was a key community centre involved 
in accessing some information," said Dawson. "It's great timing 
because this is AIDS Awareness Week and (Saturday) is World AIDS Day."

Ben Fitzgerald, executive director of the Dunfield Park Community 
Centre, said a needle exchange program wouldn't add to the stigma 
attached to the community. He said when the snow melts, he'll find 
about 100 used needles on the grounds in the spring, so working 
toward a solution is important.

He said any program to reduce the number of needles around the 
community will help. He also said health and community services would 
have to be on board.

"I view the needle exchange like I view a condom exchange," 
Fitzgerald. "I think it's going to have to be part and parcel with 
the health care approach. If the health care approach is put in 
place, I think something like that could possibly work - absolutely.

"Let's face it, they're ending up on the ground in the streets around 
the kids anyway. If we can control where they do end up, and it 
doesn't affect the kids, then it's something we would have to look at."
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