Pubdate: Tuesday, December 8, 1998
Source: Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
Copyright: 1998 The Ottawa Citizen
Authors: Edward Ellis and Danielle Dorschner


The World AIDS Day editorial ("The trouble with needle exchanges,"
Dec. 1) makes a good point. Tamper-proof needle and syringe drop boxes
for injection drug users are not the sole answer to eliminate the risk
from needles and syringes found on streets and in parks.

However, they can be one of several possible measures to deal with the
problem, if placed in appropriate locations. A pilot project in
Baltimore, Maryland, proved to be successful despite initial concerns
voiced by some members of the community, police and even drug users.

Drop boxes are now available from the regional Ottawa-Carleton health
department for use on a pilot basis where they could help reduce
needle and syringe litter. There will be an independent evaluation of
box use to determine success and any problems that may arise.

While it is worth giving drop boxes a try in this region, they are
only part of the solution. In late October, the health department
recommended to the region's community services committee that regional
government take responsibility for co-ordinating the disposal of
needles and syringes found in public places.

This means one organization taking responsibility for disseminating
information and one number to call for quick and safe disposal.

The committee is scheduled to debate this issue in

We have an epidemic of HIV infection among injection-drug users in
Ottawa-Carleton with infection rates almost twice that of Toronto.

We also know that a global study found cities with needle exchange
programs to have an average six-per-cent decrease in infection per
year, while cities without a program had a six-per-cent increase.

While our local SITE Needle Exchange Program is necessary to prevent
HIV infection among injection-drug users, it alone is not enough.

Other changes are urgently needed: Less availability of illicit drugs,
more support for parents with troubled teens, more drug treatment
programs without long waiting times, more supportive living
environments after treatment and more incentives for meaningful job

Edward Ellis Ottawa Associate Medical Officer of Health

Danielle Dorschner
HIV Prevention Program

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady