January 18th, 2013
An Australian public health group has called for needle-exchange programs to be made more widely available in an attempt to curb the spread of hepatitis C and HIV.
Hepatitis Australia wants needle-exchange services to be on offer in petrol stations, convenience stores and prisons.
The Australian government has funded needle-exchange programs in drug treatment centres, health clinics and pharmacies since the 1980s. The schemes provide a cost-effective way to tackle the spread of blood-borne diseases among people who inject illegal drugs.
Currently, the majority of primary needle and syringe programs are only open from 9am until 5pm, which limits access at key times.
Hepatitis Australia has also called for needle-exchange services to be implemented in prisons. Hep C is a very real risk in prison, mainly due to unsterilized tattooing equipment and intravenous drug use. Stuart Loveday, the president of Hepatitis Australia, said: “It is something that we believe is absolutely essential to reduce the transmission of blood-borne viruses.”
The most common way for the virus to be transmitted is through contact with an infected person’s blood. With an estimated 350,000 deaths each year from hepatitis C worldwide, any move to increase access to needle-exchange services for those who require it makes good sense.
Photo by Cavin