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International News

Canada: Health Ministry Cash Starts Injection Site Construction

May 29, 2003

Construction has started on Vancouver's injection site for drug users with funds from the British Columbia Health Ministry. In addition, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has rented additional space on East Hastings Street to create a larger site than originally envisioned, said Heather Hay, director of health services for Downtown Eastside.

The first facility of its kind in North America, the site still needs approval from Health Canada to be exempted from the normal provisions of the country's drug laws. In the meantime, an interim survey of health services for drug addicts in Downtown Eastside indicates there have been only minor impacts from a police crackdown on open drug dealing that began April 7. Concerned health and community advocates said Vancouver's drug strategy was supposed to ensure the city's addiction problems were tackled with a new, multi-faceted approach that did not just rely on police enforcement.

Advocates said the crackdown, which is supposed to focus on major dealers, is turning into general harassment of users or low-level user-dealers, who are then reluctant to go out onto the streets to access health services. An internal health authority memo notes that Vancouver Native Health and street nurses are reporting seeing fewer people or having a hard time making contact with their usual patients.

The coroner's service reports six deaths from overdoses since April 7, the same number as in April 2002. The Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society has reported no drop in its needle exchange service. But the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, which distributes needles on the street as opposed to using a van and an established clinic like DEYAS, has reported its needle and condom distribution patterns have dropped drastically since the police action.

Hay said the authority will continue to monitor the impact of police activity during the crackdown, which police have said will continue until July 7. Continuation of the crackdown would depend on police assessments of its effectiveness and whether the council provides money to keep it going.

Back to other CDC news for May 29, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Vancouver Sun
05.26.03; Frances Bula

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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.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
Needle Exchange & HIV/AIDS: Canada