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Nothing Illegal at Vancouver AIDS Clinic; Police: Having Nurses Teach Drug Users Safe Injection Breaks No Law

April 19, 2002

There's nothing illegal about nurses observing drug addicts inject cocaine and heroin at the Dr. Peter Centre for people with HIV and AIDS, said Vancouver police spokesperson Sarah Bloor. "Nurses are not injecting these individuals with the drug," Constable Bloor said last Friday. "They're teaching them about proper usage of intravenous needles. There's no criminal connection, so we wouldn't be seeking any action."

The new counseling service at the West End drop-in clinic was disclosed last Thursday at a news conference where AIDS Vancouver and other groups endorsed a report calling for federally funded safe injection facilities in Vancouver and other Canadian cities. Maxine Davis, executive director of the Dr. Peter Centre, said nurses have observed about ten patients injecting drugs at the center, some several times, since December.

The center is funded by the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation, named after Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, who died of AIDS in 1992. The drop-in center -- which offers a range of services from art therapy to physiotherapy -- is used daily by about 150 people with HIV/AIDS. Mark Virgin, a lawyer who chairs the foundation, said the center has no plans to open a safe injection center for drug users -- something advocated by the Canadian HIV-AIDS Legal Network, which called for facilities across the country within a year.

Last September, a report prepared for a meeting of federal and provincial health ministers recommended a feasibility study on "establishing a scientific medical research project regarding a supervised injection site in Canada." The report pointed to estimates that 125,000 Canadians are now using injection drugs. It also warned the direct and indirect costs of HIV/AIDS spread by injection drugs could cost $8.7 billion (US$5.48 billion) over six years, if current trends continue. Health Canada spokesperson Andrew Swift confirmed the federal government has made no commitment on supervised injection sites. "We think it's important to continue the dialogue among the stakeholders," he said.

Back to other CDC news for April 19, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Vancouver Sun
04.13.02; Glenn Bohn

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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