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Date: December 18, 2008

Fixed Sites Crucial For Health Of Vulnerable Group

New report released on needle exchange services

Fixed-site needle exchange services can protect vulnerable clients from increased health risks and open the door to other services such as counselling and income support, according to a new report released by two University of Victoria nursing professors. Drs. Joan MacNeil and Bernie Pauly conducted a six-month collaborative research project in consultation with AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) to evaluate the island-wide needle exchange and outreach services. The results indicate there is a need in Victoria for multiple fixed sites to complement any mobile service.

“The majority of the clients using needle exchange services up and down the island are homeless or living in unstable housing situations,” says MacNeil, lead investigator for the research project. “Lack of housing is associated with increased HIV risk. Needle exchange services can reduce HIV and other infections through provision of clean supplies. The programs go hand in hand with access to other services and should be considered part of primary health care services.”

In 1987, AVI initiated a needle exchange in downtown Victoria and over the years, services have expanded to include three up-island sites, serving over eight thousand clients in total on Vancouver Island. Victoria’s only fixed-site needle exchange was closed on May 31, 2008 and since then, mobile needle exchange exchanges have been provided in Victoria.

The purpose of the island-wide evaluation of needle exchange and outreach services was to determine how access to services could be improved for those most at risk of HIV and drug-related health concerns. The research drew on collaboration with the community and consisted of interviews with clients who used the needle exchange services at four sites throughout the island; focus group discussions with outreach workers; interviews with community partners; and observations. The report provides data on personal experience from clients’ perspective.

“Needle exchange services offer a safe haven in an unsafe world and are a point of entry to other services,” says Pauly. “For many, needle exchange services provide a lifeline to compassionate and humane care. They are a connection to other services such as education, counselling, treatment and supports such as income and housing.” The report also reveals a need for development of strategies to reach geographically marginalized populations on Vancouver Island as well as women and Aboriginal communities.

The report is available upon request in PDF format. Please contact Dr. MacNeil by email.

 

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Media contacts:

Dr. Joan MacNeil (School of Nursing) at 250-721-7965 or joanm@uvic.ca
Dr. Bernie Pauly (School of Nursing) at 250-721-6284 or bpauly@uvic.ca
Tara Sharpe (UVic Communications) at 250-721-6248 or tksharpe@uvic.ca
 


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