Canada: Safe Injection Site May Not Benefit City -- Expert
January 8, 2003
A major new study that claims safe injection sites provide immediate public health benefits and save money does not necessarily apply to Edmonton, said the city's deputy medical officer of health. Dr. Marcia Johnson said she is interested in looking at the idea of opening an injection site in the city, but she thinks the Vancouver study may not be applicable to Edmonton's drug scene. "There is information that shows a site of this kind would help those who are on drugs to take some positive steps in their lives," Johnson said. "But we need to make sure it's relevant in this situation."Adapted from:
The study, "The Potential Public Health and Community Impacts of Safer Injecting Facilities: Evidence from a Cohort of Injection Drug Users," was published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (2003;32(1):2-8). It is based on interviews with 587 addicts involved in the Vancouver injection drug users study. The study found that addicts who faced the highest risk of contracting infectious diseases, such as HIV, were most willing to use a safe injection site -- a fact that critics have long disputed.
Dr. Michael O'Shaughnessy, director of the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said safe injection sites perform an important public health function by preventing syringe sharing and overdoses, thus saving money spent on treatment. "At a cost of $150,000 [US$96,000] to the taxpayer per case of HIV, we can't afford to delay any longer in establishing these facilities," he said. "The status quo is not an option anymore."
Johnson said she wants to work with city police and agencies such as the needle exchange program Streetworks to study the problem of drug addiction in Edmonton and investigate whether safe injection sites would help. In February 2001, Edmonton Police Chief Bob Wasylyshen endorsed a plan to set up experimental safe injection sites for addicts. Health Canada has already issued guidelines for how safe injection drug sites should operate at pilot sites, likely in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
01.05.03; Keith Bradford
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.