April 8, 2009
Researcher: Victoria, Canada, Lacks Sufficient Needle Exchange Program
A leading health researcher in Canada says that the city of Victoria, British Columbia, is breaking international health guidelines on HIV prevention by failing to support needle exchange facilities, the Victoria Times Colonist reports. The city has been without a fixed needle exchange site for nearly a year, after the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) was forced to close its site after neighbors expressed concern that it would promote drug use in the community.
According to the article, AIDS Vancouver Island, an AIDS service organization under contract with VIHA, has since offered a mobile needle exchange service with teams working on foot or from a parked van. However, Thomas Kerr, a health researcher with the B.C. Centre for Excellence, calls this form of outreach “clearly inadequate.”
“I think British Columbians should be very concerned about the fact that a relatively wealthy place like Victoria is not adhering to international guidelines regarding HIV prevention,” Kerr says. “It’s an embarrassment, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.N. Human Rights Commission pronounced that the city of Victoria is violating essential rights by not providing those services.”
Kerr notes that World Health Organization guidelines for HIV prevention say syringe exchange and needle recovery programs help curb the spread of HIV and other blood borne illnesses among intravenous drug users as well as help reduce drug-related litter.
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