Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Pubdate: Thu, Sept 10, 1998
Author: Vittorio Rechichi


A NEEDLE exchange program will be tested in Bunbury this summer, targeting
intravenous drug users at high risk of developing hepatitis C.

The Southern Public Health Unit will conduct the three-month experiment,
operating a mobile distribution and disposal unit for syringes three nights
a week in the central business district.

The test will target recreational users, mainly of heroin and amphetamines,
issuing "fitpacks" while informing them of the dangers of drug use.

Acting alcohol and drug program coordinator Raquel Willis said the mobile
unit, which would stock fitpacks containing five syringes, a condom and
sterilised water, targeted recreational users who might pay the price of
sharing needles later in life even if they didn't form a long-term drug habit.

She said drug users were most at risk of developing the debilitating
hepatitis C - with 75 per cent contracting the disease in the first 12
months of use.

The mobile two-person unit, to operate Thursday to Saturday, 9pm to lam,
would also research the prevalence of drug use in Bunbury, what services
addicts required and also refer them to counselling services.

Bunbury will be one of two centres - along with Mirrabooka - to test a
cautioning system for first-time cannabis offenders caught from October 1.

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Checked-by: Pat Dolan