Pubdate: Wed, 18 Nov 2009
Source: Courier-Islander (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Courier-Islander (Campbell River)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Addicted individuals who use needle exchange services will have more
and greater access to clean supplies as the Vancouver Island Health
Authority (VIHA) expands the distribution methods and venues for
needle exchange services on Vancouver Island.

"Needle exchange services - as part of an overall harm reduction
strategy - are key to preventing the spread of infectious disease,"
said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer for VIHA. "An
effective and accessible distribution system for clean needles is
essential to further reducing Hepatitis C and HIV infection rates on
Vancouver Island."

VIHA already makes clean needles available through a variety of
sources, including through contracted service providers, informal
secondary distribution channels and through some public health units.
The expansion of needle exchange services will make clean needles
available at all public health units as well as through other VIHA
sites, as well as possibly other locations including pharmacies and
other non-profit agency partners. A full list of new sites will be
determined in the coming weeks in consultation with VIHA staff and
others interested in promoting harm reduction.

"Given the human and economic burden associated with drug use and
infections, our objective is to reach out to users to offer them
support to get off drugs, as well as to provide health care services
and prevent the spread of disease," said Stanwick. "While we are
encouraged by the reduction in infection rates, we remain vigilant
about providing harm reduction service in our VIHA

Rates of newly identified hepatitis C and HIV infections have
decreased over the past FIVE years on Vancouver Island. Since 2004,
Hepatitis C infection rates on Southern Vancouver Island have fallen
from 83 infections per 100,000 population to 53 infections per 100,000
in 2008.

A recent study showed that HIV rates among the street-involved
population have also fallen marginally over the past five years, while
HIV incidence on Southern Vancouver Island has decreased from 13.2 per
100,000 population to six per 100,000 population over the same time
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