Pubdate: Mon, 1 Jun 2009
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Richard Watts, Canwest News Service
Cited: Harm Reduction Victoria
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


'Guerrilla' tactics deployed to shine light on Victoria's lack of
permanent facility for addicts

Hypodermic needles are being handed out to drug users within sight of
an elementary school in violation of a policy that stipulates syringes
should not be distributed near schools or daycare centres.

A group calling itself Harm Reduction Victoria launched yesterday what
it calls a "guerrilla needle exchange" in downtown Victoria,
kitty-corner to a downtown Catholic school and right in the middle of
a so-called "no-go zone," an area that's been off-limits for needle
distribution for a year.

The move was announced at a rally and march Sunday to demand a
fixed-site needle exchange for Victoria.

Kim Toombs of Harm Reduction Victoria said needles had been
distributed in the area, but she didn't know the numbers.

Toombs said her group will continue to hand out the syringes on
Pandora Avenue every evening.

She and other people who identified themselves as part of Harm
Reduction Victoria, most of whom said they were students or
researchers at the University of Victoria, said the no-go zone results
in a denial of clean syringes, which they consider a health care
service, to drug users who hang out in the area.

The area was designated off-limits to needle distribution through a
code of conduct developed last year by a group called the Needle
Exchange Advisory Committee. It included representatives of AIDS
Vancouver Island, city hall, community groups, police and the
Vancouver Island Health Authority.

That code of conduct says needles should not be handed out near
schools, daycare centres or open businesses.

The policy was developed after controversy erupted when the health
authority attempted to start a permanent needle exchange in a building
near the school.

The plan was dropped in March 2008, after parents of children at the
school and nearby downtown residents expressed horror at the notion of
a needle exchange, particularly given the experience of Victoria's
last permanent needle exchange.

It ran for about six years until it was shut down in May 2008. The
landlord evicted the exchange after neighbours repeatedly complained
about discarded needles littering the ground, along with bloody
refuse, used condoms and human excrement.

Since then, the health authority has contracted AIDS Vancouver Island
to operate a mobile service distributing needles from vehicles like a
van travelling a fixed route at fixed times, although critics say drug
users are increasingly re-using needles because of lack of ready access.

Jocelyn Stanton, spokeswoman for the authority, said she couldn't
comment on what rally organizers called the guerrilla needle exchange.

But Stanton said the health authority believes one or more fixed
needle exchanges would be preferable to the mobile service.

Stanton said consultation is continuing in an effort to find a site.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake