Pubdate: Tue, 07 Feb 2017
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The London Free Press
Author: Randy Richmond
Page: A3


Amid rising HIV rates and an entrenched needle culture, London
researchers will unveil Wednesday a study on the value of a supervised
injection site in the city.

Researchers interviewed 200 people who are or were injection drug
users to assess people's willingness to use the sites and about 20
representatives from health care, law enforcement, government and
community organizations to get feedback.

"There are several general recommendations based on the results of the
study," but no specific direction to any agency or organization,
Western University researcher Ayden Scheim said Monday.

The study doesn't get into any of the politics surrounding supervised
injection sites, he added.

Supervised injection sites allow people to inject drugs under safe
conditions and with access to health care.

The sites generally are supported by health-care agencies focused on
harm reduction, but opposed by police forces and politicians.

London police were consulted by researchers and plan to have a
representative at Wednesday's session, spokesperson Const. Sandasha
Bough said.

In London, HIV rates have been rising, with 56 new diagnoses in the
first 11 months of 2016, compared to 42 in all of 2015, according to
the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

Though Ontario's infection rates have declined since 2005, local HIV
rates have increased by nearly 50 per cent, to nine cases per 100,000
people from 5.9.

Hepatitis C rates have soared in 10 years to 53.7 cases per 100,000
from 32.2.

Health-care and social service officials attribute the rise in HIV and
hepatitis C rates to injection drug use in London, despite an active
and long-serving needle exchange program.

It's possible the infusion of crystal meth into London, and the
accompanying disregard for health, has led to increased sharing of
dirty needles.

But there are still many opioid users, and there are signs fentanyl is
becoming more popular.

The Ontario HIV Treatment Network launched the studies last spring in
London and Thunder Bay, which was to release its results Tuesday.

"The information we collect will determine whether supervised
injection services have the potential to address public health and
public order goals in London and Thunder Bay, and also help determine
how the services might be designed," the Ontario network says on its

The former Conservative government in Ottawa introduced the Respect
For Communities Act in 2015 that required 26 criteria to be met before
a safe injection site could be considered.

Only two sites have been approved in Canada, both in Vancouver, and
critics say the criteria were too onerous.

In December, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-37 to amend the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and replaced the 26 criteria with
five to allow the opening of more injection sites.

- - With files by Chris Montanini
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