The Point Of It

IMG_3308Simone Tynan spoke at a meeting of the Braidwood MPS Consultation Committee this week.

She manages the Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) for the Southern NSW Health District. Braidwood is about to offer a discrete service and her talk provided some background information.

There is an excellent interactive map of the service in NSW. The map includes staffed NSPs where you can access advice, information and referral as well as machines and chutes. The website makes this point “The NSW Government is committed to reducing the sharing of injecting equipment among people who inject drugs by 25% by 2020”.

The 2013 Guidelines for the Program requires local health districts to prioritise access for people who inject drugs who are most marginalised including those who are:

  • street based sex workers
  • HIV positive
  • young at risk injectors
  • Aboriginal people
  • people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities
The aim is to maximise the use of sterile injecting equipment for every injection and promote safe disposal practices. The service seeks to provide access to sterile injecting equipment must be made available through the widest range of hours possible. This is provided on a confidential basis and in a professional manner and seeks to avoid imposing “unwanted educational or referral interventions which may discourage future access”.

A 2009 paper identifies the success of NSPs for injecting drug users (IDUs) in Australia. They conclude:

although HIV remains low and stable among IDUs in Australia, even relatively minor reductions in current levels of NSP coverage could result in a significant increase in incident infections. The situation is more severe for hepatitis C virus where the background prevalence is high and increased viral infectivity implies that eradication is unlikely.
I am delighted that Braidwood has become a site to support the NSP aims. A proposed Cochrane review should provide more up to date evidence about NSPs. I hope our Braidwood program can support the approach taken by Jenny Iverson and her colleagues:
Australian NSPs have historically been guided by the principles of equity and non-discrimination in keeping with the universal access advocated in the WHO/UNAIDS/UNODC Technical Guide. The provision of NSP access to people who inject … in Australia and elsewhere should be not a public policy dilemma, as all forms of injecting drug use have the potential to increase the risk of transmission of blood-borne viral infections and cause other harms.

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