Monday, November 13, 2006


Last week, St. Vincents Hospital in Darlinghurst Australia celebrated 20 years of providing sterile syringes to injection drug users, and they have a lot to celebrate. In 1986, one young and daring doctor, Dr. Alex Wodak, acted according to his medical ethics and against Australian drug policies, and began distributing sterile syringes to injection drug users using money collected in a hat that was passed among clinic staff. Alex challanged law enforcement with medical redommendations, and "It was a gamble that paid off" according to the Sydney Morning Herald (Nov 13),
By 2000, needle and syringe programs around Australia had prevented an estimated 25,000 HIV infections and 21,000 hepatitis C infections and saved the country as much as $7.7 billion in health costs.
Since the late 80's, the Australian government has incorporated harm reduction principles into their "Tough on Drugs" campaign and designated 860 locations where needle and syringe programs provide syringes and drug treatment services to addicts. By acting upon the recommendations of doctors rather than anti-drug laws, Australia prioritized disease prevention and they succeeded.

By contrast, the US authorities deciede it would be best to use HIV/AIDS as a deterrent to drug users. The result?

..the US has the highest AIDS incidence in the industrialised world, and 36 per cent of new HIV cases are injecting drug users, compared with less than 5 per cent in Australia.

Good for you Australia. And for my native country, shame, shame, shame.....

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