Needle-Exchange Programs Not Widely Available in Ireland, Report Says
Needle-exchange programs are not widely available in most of Ireland, which could be increasing the risk of HIV and other infectious diseases among injection drug users, according to a government-appointed report recently released by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the National Drugs Strategy Team, the Irish Examiner reports. The report found that six out of 10 regional drug task forces do not provide needle-exchange services but have IDUs living in the area. In addition, task forces that do provide needle-exchange services -- primarily located in the capital of Dublin and on the east coast -- often do not make the services available on a 24-hour basis or on weekends. According to the report, the "review of the current provision of needle exchange clearly highlights the fact that, despite the identification of service needs and the inclusion of specific actions in the (National Drugs Strategy) on development of services, provision is still largely concentrated in local drug task force areas with inadequate coverage at a national level despite the evidence of drug misuse throughout Ireland."
The report recommended that needle-exchange programs be established in all regional task forces; vending machines be piloted in inner-city Dublin to ensure 24-hour access to needle exchanges; programs provide devices such as pipes to prevent some users from progressing to injections; and prisons introduce the service in a way that does not compromise security. According to the report, the recommendations are part of an effort to curb the spread of bloodborne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C in Ireland (Irish Examiner, 2/2).
The report is available online.