ABC TV news program discusses the need for needle exchange programs in Australian prisons and the potential for a trial beginning in Canberra's Alaxander Maconochie prison. It's probable an HIV epidemic beginning in injecting drug users, and placing the wider Australian community at risk, would begin in Australian prisons.
Questions are also raised as to the "shameful" state of Australia's Harm Reduction initiatives that have fallen behind what is considered effective evidence based practice for prison population health. This is further evidenced by successful programs in other countries around the world. Needle Syringe Programs are strongly supported by a large evidence base, which is mirrored by well over 1,000 community programs across Australia.
Indeed studies show that "investments in needle and syringe programs were yielding a twenty seven fold return in health, productivity and other gains."
"What is striking is the level of public support for the program. The largest regular survey on drug use issues we have, the National Household Survey on Drugs, now records public opposition to the program at less than 20%. The Hawke, Keating, Howard and now Rudd Governments, as well as a myriad of state and territory governments of varying hues over the past 20 years have all lent their support to the program. For some this was in the face of strident opposition. A truly admirable achievement based on evidence, common sense and humanitarian grounds."
A WHO commissioned review concluded there is "compelling evidence that increasing the availability and utilisation of sterile injecting equipment for both out-of-treatment and in-treatment injecting drug users contributes substantially to reductions in the rate of HIV transmission":
Conservative ideologues and those with vested interests in punitive measures, have attempted to discredit NEEDLE SYRINGE PROGRAM [NSP] efficacy. Nations without proper NSPs, such as Sweden are deemed in breach of the UN International Right to Health. See page 3, item D:
Religious fundamentalists & other totalitarian beliefs systems frequently reference Sweden's "war on people" mentality, obfuscating the human rights abuse. As revealed by WIKILEAKS, the USA work actively to sabotage Harm Reduction initiatives as part of their War On Drugs policy, citing Stockholm as a reliable ally:
The Global Commission on Drug Policy has demonstrated the failure of the Drug War:
With respect to needle exchange, rather than advance challenges to NSP efficacy with new research the tactic of a tiny minority is to attack existing methodology in an out of context, subjective fashion creating the illusion of an argument.
An analogue today might be "pertussis diagnoses have increased, therefore the vaccine is ineffective" - a claim advanced by comparison of unrelated data sets.
In May 2010 Norah Palmateer et al. produced a meta-analysis using what they called "Critical appraisal criteria" to challenge the methodology of NSP research. This criteria is "a tool developed by the HDA (UK)".
However, even whilst selecting particular modes of distribution and leaving out others, a conclusion that "New studies are required to identify the intervention coverage necessary to achieve sustained changes in blood-borne virus transmission", was delivered. This is scarcely revolutionary, yet is falsely cited as discrediting NSP efficacy by fundamentalist conservative groups. In truth Palmateer et al actually argue for a shift in analytical focus to biological rather than behavioural data.
More so, they write:
"The findings of this review should not be used as a justification to close NSPs or hinder their introduction, given that the evidence remains strong regarding self-reported IRB and given that there is no evidence of negative consequences from the reviews examined here."
"No evidence of negative consequences...".
Although prone to misquote Palmateer &/or discredited non peer reviewed sources as proof NSPs are ineffective, Secretary of evangelical lobbyist group Drug Free Australia Gary Christian, argues NSPs actually serve to promote drug use and spread viruses. This new take on "condoms cause AIDS" is equally as flawed.
Thus arguments raised against the value of exchange program efficacy in cutting blood borne virus spread are emotive, supposedly backed by misrepresented, spurious and/or biased "research" and driven by discredited, conservative fringe lobby groups.
See Au. Gov. NSP information: