Canadian Health Minister Clement Criticizes WHO's Endorsement of Drug-Injection Facilities
August 8, 2008
Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement on Tuesday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City criticized the World Health Organization's endorsement of safe drug-injection facilities like Insite in Vancouver, British Columbia, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports (Picard, Globe and Mail, 8/6).
WHO Guidelines, Clement Reaction
Clement criticized the guidelines, saying that "[a]llowing and/or encouraging people to inject heroin into their veins is not harm reduction ... it is a form of harm addition." He added that the Canadian government supports some harm reduction measures -- such as needle-exchange programs, methadone treatment and rehabilitation programs -- but opposes safe-injection sites (Globe and Mail, 8/6).
Clement during an interview at the conference said the Canadian government wants to close Insite because it has become necessary to "draw a line" determining which harm reduction measures are appropriate. "There are already people saying injection sites aren't enough, that true harm reduction is giving out heroin for free," Clement said, adding, "You have to draw the line somewhere, and we feel we're drawing the line in a place Canadians are comfortable." Clement added that it is up to each country to determine which harm reduction measures are appropriate, adding, "It's not my job to kowtow to orthodoxy."
According to Clement, preventing the spread of HIV among IDUs requires a combination of prevention, treatment and enforcement measures. Clement said he believes Canada has a good balance between enforcement and prevention measures, adding, "I believe I'm on the side of compassion and on the side of the angels" (Picard, Globe and Mail, 8/7). When asked about Clement's comments, Teguest Guerma, associate director of WHO's HIV/AIDS Department, said, "The WHO supports harm reduction." Abeeda Kamarulzaman, head professor of infectious diseases at the University of Malaya, said at the conference that safe-injection sites, needle exchanges, methadone treatment and other harm reduction measures have all been shown to curb the spread of HIV, adding, "We need to stop arguing about the merits of harm reduction and just do it" (Globe and Mail, 8/6).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.