Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Needle exchanges bring 27x cost-benefit

A clear and concise piece published in The Australian shows the tremendous success of needle and syringe programs (NSPs) in Australia which were yielding a 27-fold return in health, productivity and other gains. Gino Vumbaca, executive officer of the Australian National Council on Drugs, then calls for such services to be extended into prisons.

After pointing out that drug use is only a temporary part of most users’ lives and explaining the logic of protecting their health during this period,  he writes:
In particular prisons are a real blind spot in Australia’s response to HIV and hepatitis C. Prisons have over 30,000 people pass through their gates each year, often for less than 6 months, much higher hepatitis C rates than we see in the broader community, extremely risky injecting practices with at time dozens sharing the same old needle and syringe repeatedly, a high level of sexual assault and other violence and a large number of people with drug problems.

After leading the world for so long on preventing HIV, no prison in Australia has a needle and syringe program operating, or has even trialled one. This is despite such programs already operating in other countries including Spanish, Swiss and even Iranian prisons.

The opposition in Australia to a prison needle and syringe program generally focuses on two areas. First, just stop the drugs getting in. The reality is that there probably isn’t a prison in the world where drugs are unavailable. Huge numbers of people go in and out of prisons every day other than prisoners, such as staff, contractors, legal officials and visitors. Drugs are so easy to hide that it would require a full body cavity search every man, woman and child every time they entered a prison to find them.
His piece comes after the conservative-Christian-dominated group Drug-Free Australia issued a 'Parliamentary Briefing' attempting to persuade politicians that NSPs don't work and should be abolished. Mr Vumbaca's last paragraph above shows how unrealistic is any claim that prohibition can create a 'drug-free Australia'. If they can't keep drugs out of prisons, imagine trying to keep them out of a whole continent, and imagine the oppressive police state we would all be suffering and paying for during the attempt.

I'm pretty clear which side of the argument Jesus would have backed.

1 comment:

PMFAddictionTreatmentCenter said...

Thanks for the post.
So, is there a reason that they won't let a trial be run at the jails in Australia? If the records and stats show in other countries that it works, why don't they?