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Canada: In-Hospital Needle Exchange Seen Cutting Infection Risk

March 9, 2007

Two doctors in Saint John are hoping to establish, within six months, a needle exchange for hospitalized injection drug users (IDUs).

IDUs typically continue injecting while hospitalized and may hide or hoard used needles because they do not have access to clean ones, said Dr. Timothy Christie, ethicist for Atlantic Health Sciences Corp. This poses a danger not only to the IDUs themselves but also to staff, patients, and visitors, all of whom risk being stuck by hidden dirty needles.

"The logical solution to improve safety is to give patients access to clean ones. I'm convinced of this," said Christie. Also endorsing the idea is Dr. John Dornan, head of the department of medicine. Though Christie said hospital-based needle exchanges are "fairly uncommon" in Canada, he noted that St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver has long had one. St. Paul's hosts the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV and AIDS, where Christie worked as director of ethics for four years and wrote the province's needle exchange guidelines. "Saint John could be in the forefront on this," he said.

In addition to the safety benefits, Christie said giving hospitalized IDUs clean needles promotes trust and encourages discussions about other services. "They often ask for a referral to detox, or abstinence-based treatment programs," he said.

The policy Christie and Dornan are developing would have to be approved by various committees before going into operation. Expense is seen as minimal: A box of 1,000 needles costs about $16 Canadian ($13.58 US).

Back to other news for March 9, 2007

Adapted from:
Telegraph-Journal (New Brunswick)
03.07.2007; Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon

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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.
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