Pubdate: Wed, 09 Mar 2011
Source: Grand Forks Gazette (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011 Alex Sherstobitoff
Author: Alex Sherstobitoff



Re: RCMP raid needle site (Feb. 23 issue of the Grand Forks Gazette)

Needle exchange programs are part of a comprehensive harm reduction 
approach to minimizing harms associated with drug use.

There is scientific evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of 
syringe exchange and outreach programs. Needle programs are a first 
point of contact to health and social services for people who live in 
the margins of society as a result of stigma related to use of illicit drugs.

These programs alter harmful conditions surrounding drug use, such as 
reducing sharing of equipment, unequal access to health services, 
social discrimination, exposure to street and relationship violence, 
inadequate housing, lack of employment and poor physical or mental health.

ANKORS (AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society) has 
responded to the needs of people regarding HIV/AIDS and hepatitis since 1992.

The needle exchange program began in 1998 following consultations 
with citizens and agencies including public health, mental health, 
addiction services, RCMP and others throughout the Kootenay/Boundary. 
Local services are minimal due to financial constraints and the 
absence of an agency willing to provide fixed-site services.

To increase access, ANKORS and other organizations train and support 
people who are concerned about the spread of infection and are 
willing to offer secondary exchange. Historically, these citizens are 
referred to as Natural Helpers.

"Informal" needle exchanges are a vital part of harm reduction 
programs. It's obvious from supplies found at the home in Grand Forks 
that those living there were working to keep people safe from the 
transmission of blood-borne infections.

Some have referred to items found, such as clean syringes, saline 
solution, alcohol swabs etc., as "offence-related property" - this is 

Harm reduction supplies are provided by the BC Centre for Disease 
Control and are not illegal. Decrease in rates of HIV and hepatitis 
in recent years are largely due to Needle Exchange services.

It's easy to scapegoat people who use drugs and to sensationalize 
drug activity. Sometimes it's difficult for communities to realize 
that those who use drugs may also be making a positive contribution 
by assisting others to be safe.

Alex Sherstobitoff, ANKORS
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