Gary Burns, Australia’s most-loved and most-hated activist, has filed a complaint with New South Wales because the state government is sending taxpayer dollars to the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON), which is producing a free booklet called Routes of Administration that advises visitors on how to consume illegal drugs. Tips include “rinse the nostrils out after snorting,” “rotate injecting sites from arm to arm and up and down the same arm,” and “increase the size of the veins to make injecting easier.” On the other hand, it could be argued ACON, which received about $9 million per year from NSW’s health department, is just trying to protect the health of pre-existing drug users by making sure they aren’t getting high any more recklessly than they need to. Like free needle exchanges!
Australia and the state of NSW’s official policy on drugs is harm minimisation. This book is part of that policy.
Sometimes some people use drugs. We wish that they wouldn’t because of the human and economic cost. When those people use drugs incorrectly, there is MORE human and economic cost. Until we have the technology (and we are no where NEAR) to really cure drug dependence for most afflicted people, the smart thing to do is make reasonable measures to reduce the human and economic cost. A heroin addict costs us a lot of money. A heroin addict with recurring abscesses costs a lot more, and clogs up the ER.
Responsible harm minimisation information is a good thing, i.e. within a treatment program, to people receiving drug counselling. Acon’s “Routes of Administration” booklet is NOT responsible harm minimisation – it’s available for absolutely anyone to download at Acon’s website. There is no treatment provided, no follow-up and no discussion of the risks involved.
@Baz: You are absurd. You are saying that only the cured can get the cure.
I didn’t say that. I said so-called harm minimisation information should be provided responsibly as part of a treatment program to people undergoing treatment. If they were “cured” they wouldn’t be getting treatment would they?
I dunno, it does seem a bit weird for an AIDS organisation to be recommending these practices. What does rinsing out your nostrils after snorting cocaine have to do with AIDS prevention? Sounds like plain drug taking tips to me.
Harm reduction/minimization debates have been going on for decades. Even the idea of providing no-cost condoms was contraversial, so the clean needles programs have been too.
Saying this isn’t “treatment” for drug use doesn’t really address the problem. Treatment is expensive and often has to be repeated. For those who cant get treatment or who fail it this is a way to keep HIV from spreading as rapidly.
The “anti’s” will always say –in the US, UK, Canada, Australia etc. that drug use is being “encouraged”, but the reality is that any way to reduce HIV transmission between drug users helps save/prolong lives.
I agree with Baz that this info should be provided within the proper context of a drug treatment service.
I also wonder why ACON is doing this when we already have a drug education org in New South Wales doing this work – NUAA. It seems like duplication to me and another flimsy attempt by ACON to justify its existence since “beyond AIDS”.
NUAA doesn’t operate in the gay community, ACON does.
An argument could be made that because the AIDS Councils/partnership approach was so successful, indeed internationally lauded, that model might also work to tackle other harm minimisation work in the communities they already serve. Certainly crystal use is far lower in Australia’s gay community than equivalent communities in countries like USA which didn’t adopt a community partnership approach. I think it remains to be seen if there’s much validity to those assumptions though.
@Micky: I’m not sure what good rinsing your nostrils would be, but sharing a straw for intra-nasal drug use is a very common route of transmission for Hepatitis C, and other blood borne viruses. So better advice to prevent disease transmission would be to suggest not sharing straws.
@ Harley: NUAA operates for the whole community, including GLBT people. They may not specifically operate for the gay community but then you could say they don’t specifically operate for any particular community: Chinese, Lebanese, older Australians, teenagers, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, disabled people, women, men, etc. NUAA shouldn’t even exist if every single ‘sub-community’ requires their own drug education body. That’s my take anyway. Interesting debate.
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