Canada: Report Drawing on Experience of Inmates Calls for Needle Exchange in Prisons
February 5, 2010
Canada should implement prison-based needle-exchange programs as a way to reduce transmission of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, urges a new report by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (CHALN). The high rate of blood-borne infections in prisons is a public health concern that impacts all of society, according to the nonprofit.
The report makes use of the personal stories of 50 men and women who have served time in Canadian prisons. There, they say, drug use is rampant; clean needles are far more difficult to obtain than drugs; and sharing injection paraphernalia is commonplace.
"I know that 30 or 40 people would share one syringe," said a man identified as Gordon. "Sometimes there was only one syringe in the whole jail and you would have to pay to use it."
"People in our communities currently have access to needle and syringe programs. Therefore, people in prison should have the same access to clean needles and syringes," said CHALN. "It violates the human rights of people in prison to deny them the same tools available to people in our communities, who use these programs to protect themselves from disease."
The majority of prisoners are eventually released. If they are infected with HIV or hepatitis C, they can spread infection to others, driving up the cost of medical care in Canada, the report states.
"The prisons are a reservoir for these infections," Dr. Peter Ford said of HIV and hepatitis C. Ford, an HIV/AIDS specialist who was not involved in creating the report, said it is unlikely the current government will take up the issue of needle exchange in prisons. "It's a very scary public health issue that nobody seems to be paying any attention to," he said.
02.01.2010; Helen Branswell
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.