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International News

Canada: Needle Exchange Won't Be "One-for-One"

June 13, 2008

At a news conference on Thursday, Ottawa officials announced revisions to the city's needle exchange program that aim to reduce both the spread of HIV and the problem of discarded needles.

Though he had once called a one-for-one exchange the "ideal" solution, Mayor Larry O'Brien said Dr. Isra Levy, the city's new medical officer of health, convinced him otherwise. Extensive research shows that HIV rates decline in cities with policies like Ottawa's and increase in places with restrictive, one-for-one programs, Levy told O'Brien. In addition, one-for-one needle exchange results in more people carrying needles with them, creating a health risk for police, paramedics and others, Levy said.

"We have been persuaded that one-for-one exchange will not bring the benefits we imagined it would," the mayor said. "The returns are not there, based on scientific research."

Instead, Levy recommended a number of changes to the current program, such as longer service hours, a hotline for residents to report used needles, better technology and more staff. The enhancements would cost around $100,000 (US $97,300) annually, he said.

"We're really hoping to get ahead of this program and improve the thing," said Levy. "There will be a real advantage to mapping where the needles are and following the changing patterns… [to] modify and adapt cleanup routes," he said. "We'll get better at the problem instead of always responding."

Police Chief Vern White praised Levy's approach. "I'm enthused that he's looking at alternatives to find solutions," White said. "If what he tries doesn't work, we'll try something different."

Back to other news for June 2008

Adapted from:
Ottawa Citizen
06.13.2008; Katie Daubs

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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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