Canada: Protesters Urge City Not to Cut Crack-Kit Funds
February 23, 2007
On Monday, about 25 people demonstrated outside City Hall in Ottawa in opposition to the threatened shut-down of the city's safe crack pipe program. If the effort is eliminated from the 2007 budget, as Larry O'Brien promised to do during his successful campaign for mayor last year, more drug users could be a risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C, according to the protesters.
Ottawa police oppose the program, which they say encourages drug use. But supporters see the effort as a way to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses, and they say it puts users in touch with health care workers and treatment resources they might not otherwise encounter.
The city currently contributes about $8,000 Canadian ($6,900 US) annually to fund the outreach, according to the AIDS Committee of Ottawa. The committee's Khaled Salam testified before the council, saying it would be unethical to cut funding for the program, as it "reduce[s] human suffering."
Emily Meadows presented a study by University of Ottawa researchers that found about one-quarter of users switched from injecting drugs to smoking them as a result of the crack pipe program. Smoking crack, Meadows said, is significantly less harmful than injecting it. The study found that prior to the program's 2005 launch, 37 percent of users said they shared pipes every time they smoked crack. One year later, that number was down to 13 percent.
02.20.2007; Nicole Baute
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.