Pubdate: Thu, 22 May 2008
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Times Colonist
Author: Beverly Brookman


Where are the voices of the Vancouver Island Health Authority and
Victoria city council on the imminent closure the fixed-site needle
exchange with no substitute venue.

VIHA made a commendable decision to provide comprehensive services to
deal with drug addiction. Recognizing integration of support and harm
reduction are essential, it bought the old St. John ambulance
building. Perhaps in its zeal to carry out its plan, it did not follow
as full a consultative process as it could have and failed to
purposefully build community support.

Thus the outcry from one constituency, St Andrew's School, that
mobilized a strong letter writing response, causing a six-month
evaluation period before a permanent fixed site is opened.

Again, where is the voice of VIHA in doing the public education
necessary to support its fine harm reduction strategy? It is essential
to provide continuous service to clients, and that those services be
available close at hand. To provide only visible and heavily
scrutinized mobile units will make already frightened and isolated
clients much less likely to access the needed services. We cannot
expect them to wait with no negative consequences.

Canadian and international peer-reviewed research is unambiguous.
Needle and syringe exchange programs reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS,
save lives on the streets and in prisons, save money in medical costs,
produce no increase in street drug use, and keep discarded needles off
the street.

Beverly Brookman,

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