Canada: University of Ottawa Professor to Study Need for Safe-Injection Site: Clean Place for Drug Users Could Relieve HIV, Hep C "Epidemic"
July 28, 2005
Ottawa University professor Lynne Leonard was awarded $135,000 ($109,000 US) to study the viability of a safe-injection site to provide intravenous drug users (IDUs) with clean injection equipment, medical staff, and addiction counselors to help prevent blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. Funding for the study is being provided by the federal Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the charitable Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.
"Ottawa is in the middle of a public health crisis with HIV and hepatitis C and we need to really work hard to reduce the harm associated with injection drug use," said Leonard, of the university's Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine. Nearly half the Ottawa IDUs interviewed by her researchers expressed an interest in getting into treatment, Leonard said. "We can't sit back and look at these escalating epidemics among [IDUs] without investigating some different, new innovative approach, which has been tried successfully elsewhere," she said.
There are 3,300-5,300 IDUs in Ottawa, researchers estimate, and the HIV and hepatitis C rate among them is 21 percent and 76 percent, respectively.
Public health agencies have a duty to prevent disease and death, said Jim Watson, Ontario's new minister of health promotion. "If this is one way of doing it, we shouldn't have a closed mind to it," he said.
However, Councilor Rick Chiarelli said he is not convinced safe-injection sites reduce drug use and protect the public. "It's all the wrong messages," he said. "I don't think we need to be anyone's guinea pig on this."
Researchers will interview about 250 IDUs and 50 community officials over about six months and reveal their findings at a public meeting in early 2006.
07.26.2005; Patrick Dare
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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.