Pubdate: Sat, 13 Feb 2016
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: 9


OTTAWA - The Liberal government should implement prison-based needle 
and syringe programs to address rates of HIV and hepatitis C 
estimated to be 10 to 30 times higher than in the general population, 
proponents say.

Emily van der Meulen of Ryerson University, the lead author of a 
recent study, said she wants to see the government review evidence on 
the effectiveness of programs that have operated in countries like 
Switzerland for more than 20 years.

"I'm hopeful that the government will look to this evidence, as well 
as to our recent research report," she said.

The issue is about health and human rights, she noted, adding that 
prisons where such programs have been implemented have seen 
substantial benefits, including reduced rates of needle-sharing and overdoses.

It would also be cost-effective, she said.

"The costs associated with HIV and hepatitis C virus are very high in 
prison -- roughly $30,000 per year for HIV treatment and about 
$60,000 for hepatitis C," she said.

"Research has shown that needle and syringe programs are among the 
most cost effective health measures for people who use drugs, whether 
in the community or in prison."

Canada lags behind on implementing such programs, said Sandra Ka Hon 
Chu of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

"We have the resources in Canada to implement these programs," she said.

As the implementation push continues, the issue is playing out in court.

A former prisoner, along with organizations including the HIV/AIDS 
legal network, filed a lawsuit against the government in Sept. 2012 
because it did not make needles and syringes available in prison to 
prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.
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