Prison Based Needle and Syringe Programs, a Must for Australia says National Drug Users Organisation

"Prison Based Needle and Syringe Programs, a Must for Australia says National Drug Users Organisation" 

The Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) the national organisation representing illicit drug users across Australia is pleased to launch today its discussion paper on the important issue of Prison Based Syringe Exchange Programs (PSE Programs).

Ms. Annie Madden, AIVL’s Executive Officer commented, “Every day, injecting drug using prisoners are being forced to compromise their health due to the continuing unavailability of legitimate programs for the provision of sterile injecting equipment and the disposal of used equipment in Australian prisons. The result is increasing numbers of people becoming infected with hepatitis C and an array of other preventable physical health issues.”

AIVL was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing, Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS Section to develop the document as part of AIVL’s policy activities. One of AIVL’s main aims in developing the document was to shift the focus from a continual debate about whether we should have PSE programs to a more positive dialogue about how PSE programs can be implemented. 

Ms. Madden continued, “This work is important as it provides those responsible for providing services in prisons with the perspective of those who would benefit most from PSE programs – injecting drug using prisoners. Given the high numbers of injecting drug users who are repeatedly incarcerated, this is an important issue that needs urgent action.”  

AIVL is aware that this is a sensitive and complex issue and that many stakeholders need to be involved in developing such programs including current and ex prisoners. At the moment however, we are faced with a breach of human and health rights in our prisons. It is recognised here in Australia that a person’s capacity to access health services should not be compromised by reason of imprisonment and that such services should be to the standard as provided in the community. At present, Australia is not meeting such obligations and the results are devastating.

Ms. Madden concluded, “AIVL’s report is both comprehensive and informative and will aid us in reaching our goal of commencing a trial of PSE programs in Australia. AIVL is not alone in advocating for this important health initiative and our discussion paper is an important contribution to the debate. We must act now to ensure that injecting drug using prisoners can protect their health, which they are unable to do with the underground and illegal needle and syringe distribution that it is currently occurring in Australian prisons. There are already needles and syringes in Australian prisons. It is in the best interests of both prisoners and prison staff to regulate and monitor the use and movement of injecting equipment within prisons.” 

For further comment please contact Ms. Annie Madden – AIVL Executive Officer:

ph: (02) 6279 1600 Fax: (02) 6279 1610 Mobile: 0414 628 136.

Copies of the discussion paper  Prison- Based Syringe Exchange Programs (PSE Programs) can be obtained on the AIVL website, or by contacting Nicky Bath ph: 02 6279 1600 or by email nickyb@aivl.org.au