Pubdate: Wed, 1 Sep 1999
Source: Grand Forks Gazette, The (Canada)
Contact:  +1-250-442-3336
Author: Michael Chouinard


It was a little more than a year ago that ANKORS and AIDS outreach network
and support service, started its needle exchange program in the West
Kootenays and Boundary.

The aim has been to keep needles off the streets and to reduce the chances
of infection among injection drug users, who are at risk of contracting HIV,
Hepatitis C or other infections.

Although there is no definitive way yet to measure how effective the program
has been in keeping the spread of these health problems in check, it is
clear that people throughout the region are using the program. So far, the
exchange program has distributed 3,765 needles while collecting 4,613 a
return rate of 123 per cent. The surplus has come from needles the users
either bought or had with them already.

"It seems to be working quite well," says Karen Muirhead, the executive
director of the ANKORS program.

The program organizers say they knew it would take some work to get in touch
with the population that is most at risk. One of the factors is that these
people tend to be more transient, she says. "It also has to do with trust."

Muirhead says they have to establish a safe environment for the users in
order to get them to come, while word-of-mouth seems to be the best way to
spread news about the program. The number to call ANKORS is 1-800-421-2437.

In general, the community has been supportive of the program, in part due to
the fact that program organizers met beforehand with a range of groups to
inform them about the plan and about the importance of harm reduction. This
included bar and hotel owners, health councils, and other community groups.

There was talk of setting up a fixed site for this area, but this did not
transpire, and Muirhead says they are now re-evaluating the other fixed
sites: Trail, Nelson, Castlegar, and Edgewood. The service area for the
needle exchange runs from Edgewood at the north end to Salmo at the east
edge and Rock Creek at the west. Much of the area is serviced by the mobile

The exchange will be in Grand Forks on Sept. 7 and 21. In Christina Lake and
communities in the West Boundary it will stop on Sept. 14. The van visits
the region three times every month, though it was originally stopping once a

- ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck