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International News

Canada Sets Sanctioned Site to Inject Drugs

June 27, 2003

Canada's health ministry on Wednesday approved the first sanctioned "safe injection site" for illegal drug users, a project in Vancouver, B.C., that the Bush administration described as "state-sponsored personal suicide." To be located in the drug- and crime-ridden Downtown Eastside neighborhood, the facility will provide a clinic-like setting for drug users to shoot up under the supervision of a registered nurse, and it will have a federal criminal exemption, making it off-limits to police.

The goal of the program is to offer injection supervision to prevent overdoses, in addition to providing clean needles to reduce the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other diseases epidemic among IV drug users. About 30 percent of Vancouver's IV drug users are infected with HIV/AIDS, and 90 percent have hepatitis C. "Users can bring their own drugs, heroin or cocaine, onto the site and inject them. People on the premises will be safe from arrest for possession of an illegal substance," said Viviana Zanocco, spokesperson for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

Vancouver has one of the highest drug addiction rates in North America, with city officials reporting 12,000 IV drug users among the 1.3 million people in the metro area. An estimated 4,700 addicts are in a 12-block section of Downtown Eastside, and more than 2,000 addicts have died from overdoses in the city's streets in the past decade. Vancouver officials greeted the federal government's go-ahead for the project with enthusiasm. "Everybody here should take pride in this," said Mayor Larry Campbell.

The project, which John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, has strongly objected to, could be up and running by September. David Murray, drug office policy analyst, said that the United States is alarmed by a program that puts narcotics users and -- potentially -- dealers above the law. "Canada may be abetting the public health crisis more than treating it," he said.

Back to other CDC news for June 27, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Boston Globe
06.26.03; Colin Nickerson

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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