Pubdate: Thu, 4 Feb 1999
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Author: Peter Watney


"PHOTO sparks outrage at youth drug abuse" (CT, February 1, p.3)
copies a photo appearing on Page 1 of the Sun-Herald of the day before.

Apparently as a result of seeing that photo, NSW Health Minister
Andrew Refshauge suspended the operation of a Redfern needle exchange.

It was not possible for the minister to establish within that short
time that the needle apparently being used to inject a substance into
an as-yet unidentified boy had been supplied by the suspended needle
exchange, or even that the substance being injected was heroin.

Needle exchanges were established in 1987. According to Professor
Richard Peachem, chief health adviser to the World Bank, who reviewed
Australia's AIDS program in 1995, Australia's $10 million per year
spent on the needle and syringe program had by then prevented 2900 HIV
infections and saved $270 million. o evidence has been produced since
1995 that needle exchanges have ceased their work of salvation, and
all the available evidence suggests that the savings have continued
and have escalated.

Those savings result from the prevention of blood-borne diseases being
passed from user to user by means of shared needles. The evidence has
also been that they have not resulted in increased use or abuse of

The photo provides absolutely no justification for the summary
suspension of a needle exchange quite the reverse.

There must be an election in the offing.


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MAP posted-by: Rich O'Grady