Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jul 2007
Source: Capital Xtra! (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 Pink Triangle Press
Author: Nicholas Little
Note: Nicholas Little is the gay men's outreach coordinator for the AIDS
Committee Of Ottawa.


Harm Reduction - Let's Stand Up For Queer Youth

The City Of Ottawa gave its safer inhalation program -- otherwise
known as the crack kit exchange program -- a mere two years before
declaring it a failure despite evidence to the contrary. On Jul 11,
Mayor Larry O'Brien called drug users a "sad lot" and urged city
councillors to cancel the program that allows them to exchange a used
glass pipe for a clean one. Councillors obliged the mayor, voting 15
to seven in favor of cancellation.

Did you get that? At a 2:1 ratio, our elected municipal government
turned their backs on scientific evidence and instead voted according
to ideology.

All this despite evidence of the crack kit program's success.
University Of Ottawa epidemiologist Lynne Leonard found that the
program had reduced the amount of pipe sharing between users that
leads to hepatitis C and HIV transmission, helped drug users
transition from injecting drugs to the safer option of smoking them,
and offered health workers regular contact with a hard to access
population. Each one of those interactions was a possibility to do
work around stable housing, accessing food, adjusting to life after
prison, transitioning out of the sex trade, or changing substance use
patterns. And we did all that in just two years. Imagine what we could
do in more.

And what did all those benefits cost the city? A mere $8,200 per year.
A glass pipe costs 30 cents. A pack of screens costs eight. A mouth
piece only four. Four whole cents!

Compare that to fighting a "war on drugs" which began in 1970 -- that
unwinnable war which uses the threat of jail time to try and scare us
into never getting high. Celebrating its 37th birthday this year, the
war on drugs has produced dismal results and created the unsafe
conditions where HIV and hep C thrive. Those 37 long, painful, costly
years of epidemics and death have been an inexcusably high price to
pay in the unlikely hope that kids will JUST SAY NO. A multi-billion
dollar mistake.

David Salisbury, Ottawa's chief medical officer, says the hospital
bill for a patient who develops AIDS is $600,000. Salisbury implored
city council not to axe the program, explaining that it prevented six
to 12 Hep C and HIV infections annually. After the vote, councillor
Clive Doucet remarked, "We just voted to basically kill six to 12
people a year."

But enough of this bleeding heart liberalism getting in the way of
profits for Sabina Sauter, Sandy Hill B&B owner and crack kit program
opponent. Following city council's vote, Sauter declared, "It's a
great day for Ottawa. It's a great day for tourism." True enough,
Sabina! Those six to 12 drug users who'll be infected this year
probably don't travel much and, even if they do, I doubt they'd feel
very welcome staying in your home anyway. So fuck 'em! And to really
play the martyr card, let's bitch about how our taxes are rising when
we're paying the $3.6 to 7.2 million for their medical costs a few
years from now.

Cause honestly, folks, are we really any better than old Sabina
Sauter's B&B? Hell, at least she got off her ass and marched to City
Hall to speak up for what she believes in. We know full well that
queer youth face discrimination, harassment and violence at
astronomical levels. And we know that when queer youth do come out to
their families, they're chased out of their homes and onto the streets
far, far too often. And we know that, once there, many of these queer
youth turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain of being young,
poor, homeless, and abandoned. And in our heart of hearts, we know
it's by chance and privilege that we escaped the same fate and that
few of us can say with certainty that we wouldn't turn to crack too if
we hadn't.

Queer youth have far fewer means to shape the world they live in than
do well-paid, middle-class people like me. They need us to stand with
them and fight for the programs that will save their lives. Queer
lives. Queer youth need us to get off our couches and get political.
To volunteer and fundraise. To write to our politicians. And to be
there protesting loud and proud when Mayor O'Brien declares war on our
community's health. If we don't stand up for the lives of queer youth,
they'll be wiped out all too easily like the crack kit program that
could have saved them.

This is the kind of the bullshit that will kill us if we don't resist.
For God's sake, people: JUST SAY NO!

Nicholas Little is the gay men's outreach coordinator for the AIDS
Committee Of Ottawa.
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MAP posted-by: Derek