Monday, January 13, 2014

Evidence base for needle and syringe program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre

Last week John Didlick, Executive Officer of Hepatitis ACT shared a series of links to articles and an interview on the evidence base for needle and syringe program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. The evidence is compelling.

There is a 10 minute 2CC interview with David McDonald (ANU Fellow and Director of Social Research and Evaluation).

Mr McDonald presents an evidence-based assessment of the merits of a regulated prison-based needle and syringe exchange program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. Key points include:
·      Safety for prison staff, prisoners, and their families is a key consideration. 
 ·    A strong evidence base demonstrates that regulated prison-based needle and syringe exchange programs make prisons safer.
·      The benefits of regulated prison NSP outweigh any negative consequences.
·      Regulated prison NSPs:
o   reduce transmission of Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs)
o   reduce overdose deaths
o   help create better relationships between staff and detainees
o   lead to an increase in assessment and treatment of drug related problems, and
o   are not associated with increased drug use or drug supply.
·     Needle stick injuries are a key concern for staff currently. Regulated NSPs reduce that danger and have been associated with zero incidents of regulated equipment being used as a weapon.
·     In existing programs overseas, prison staff are supportive of regulated NSPs after initial hesitance and concerns.

A Canberra Times article  flagged the frustrations of public health advocates and the CPSU at apparent slow progress.

Another Canberra Times article  highlighted an increase in contraband (including drugs and drug  paraphernalia), potentially associated with a surge in detainee numbers.

John says:

Until a much needed NSP and tattooing program are realities at the AMC, a larger population and the associated interdiction challenges increase the need for interventions that can prevent and reduce the transmission of blood borne viruses. These must also include consistent, appropriate and discreet access to full-strength household bleach.

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