Canadian Mounties’ Chief Drug Enforcement Officer Backs ‘Safe Injection Sites’ to Reduce Spread of HIV, Hepatitis C
To stem the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other bloodborne diseases, Canada should "consider providing safe injection sites" for intravenous drug users, Robert Lesser, the head of drug enforcement for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, suggested Friday during a national conference on hepatitis C, the Toronto Star reports. Lesser said that although such sites are "technically illegal" in Canada, the country already has a number of "unofficial" sites that are "generally tolerate[d]" by the police. He added that Montreal and Vancouver are debating establishing safe sites, which would be operated by community health groups and staffed with medical personnel. Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy said that traditional drug policies, which "emphasi[ze]" criminal penalties, only "foster the spread of disease." He added, "We turn drug users into criminals, foster dangerous injection practices, we don't tell them about safe practices, we throw them in jail for drug crimes, we don't give them the means to protect themselves and then we turn them back into society." The Canadian Health Department estimates that the cost of HIV/AIDS due to IV drug use will total $8.7 billion over the next six years. Government health officials have convened a committee to address the issue, and the panel is expected to recommend in June a feasibility study on establishing a supervised infection-site research project in Canada (Bueckert, Toronto Star, 5/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.