The executive director of UNAIDS said he is "very impressed" with a medically supervised injection facility operating in Kings Cross. Calling it a "pragmatic, cost-effective" approach to preventing HIV, Michel Sidibe declined to comment on the entanglement of the pilot project's future with state elections.
The site has been running as a pilot project for almost a decade, and the Labor government supported renewing its license in 2007. However, the state government decided not to grant the facility a permanent license, so Parliament must vote on renewing the license every four years. The next vote is set for October 2011 -- seven months after state elections.
Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell said he wants "hard data" showing the center helps with addiction before supporting any permanent license. The opposition will allow a vote of conscience on the matter, officials said.
"The decision is local," Sidibe said. "It should be taken by politicians after reviewing the center; but from an evidence point of view, what I saw is not harmful, it's the opposite."
Since the facility's launch in 2001, ambulance calls to Kings Cross have declined 80 percent, said Dr. Marianne Jauncey, the injection center's medical director. In that time, the facility has averted more than 3,500 medical overdoses without a fatality and seen about 12,000 clients. The site supervises an average of 200 injections a day.
"It is clear it saves people's lives," Jauncey said. "We have to ask, how much more evidence do we need?"
Sidibe, in Australia to attend a UN summit in Melbourne, did urge federal officials to end immigration restrictions on non-nationals with HIV. "To know that in Australia, we have restrictions for people living with HIV to come and to stay is a little bit painful for me," he said.