Health groups backing plan for needle exchange

Health groups backing plan for needle exchange

In a move praised by health bodies, the ACT government has reconfirmed its commitment to trialling a needle and syringe program in the territory's prison.

The government on Thursday released a framework for drug policies and services at the Alexander Maconochie Centre and its strategy for managing blood-borne viruses at the prison.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre.Credit:Rohan Thomson

It also provided a final report on the 2011 drug policy recommendations for the prison made by the Burnet Institute, a non-profit organisation that researches communicable diseases and viruses.

In the government's plan to manage blood-borne viruses in the centre, regulated access to sterile injecting equipment is listed an ''actionable priority area'', along with consistent and appropriate access to condoms and dental dams and prisoners' own razors and toothbrushes.


In a joint statement, leaders of the Public Health Association of Australia, Hepatitis Australia and the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia said they were hopeful prisoner access to sterile injecting equipment in the Canberra prison had moved a step closer to becoming a reality.

Leaders of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Canberra, the ACT Hepatitis Resource Centre, the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT were involved in developing the policy documents.

They praised the government for its ''continued commitment to preventing and reducing blood-borne virus transmission by providing regulated access to sterile injecting equipment in the AMC''.

The Community and Public Sector Union, which represents prison guards at the centre, had previously opposed a needle and syringe program at the centre.

A spokesman for the union said it would consider the reports before making further comments.

In its final status report on the Burnet Institute recommendations, the ACT government said under its current industrial agreement, implementation of a needle and syringe program required union consent.

''The government is committed to seeking that agreement through consultation with relevant unions,'' it said.

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