Canada should implement prison based needle and syringe programs: researchers

By on February 13, 2016


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OTTAWA—Proponents of prison-based needle and syringe programs say the Liberal government should implement measures to address rates of HIV and hepatitis C estimated to be 10 to 30 times higher than in the general population.

Emily van der Meulen of Ryerson University, lead author of a recent study, says she hopes the government will review evidence on the effectiveness of programs that have operated in Switzerland for more than 20 years.

She says the issue is about both health and human rights.

Sandra Ka Hon Chu of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network says Canada lags behind on implementing such programs, noting there are resources available to put recommendations into practice.

A former prisoner, along with organizations including the HIV/AIDS legal network, filed a lawsuit against the government in 2012 because it did not make needles and syringes available in prison to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the government cannot comment on the issue now due to the ongoing litigation, but noted the government is committed to implementing evidence-based policies.